This large scale painting depicts Robert Charles Dunlop Elliott (1884-1950) at his peak; probably painted in the late 1930s, when Elliott had well and truly established himself in business, political and cultural circles. Elliott himself was born in Kyneton, Victoria, but is here proudly costumed in the dress of his mother’s Scottish - Inverness – forebears. His grocer father was from Northumberland, England.
Elliott had only the slightest formal education, but was a natural entrepreneur, and by 1911 had established himself as a successful business agent. He married Theodore Fink’s daughter, Hilda, in 1913, and their marriage was highly successful, with Hilda becoming very active in her husband’s political, cultural and business ambitions. In 1924 he commenced his connection with Mildura by buying into the Sunraysia Daily. He was elected a Senator for Victoria in 1929, serving until 1935. ‘R. D.’ was a passionate art collector, playing an important role in Melbourne’s cultural life, and was a trustee of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria.
McInnes’ portrait appears unfinished, with generous areas of exposed canvas, and its thin, wash-like applications of paint. Elliott is depicted in an informal, though none the less, imperious pose. In its construction and sitter’s air of patrician negligence, the painting takes its tone from the grand portraits of later eighteenth century British painters, such as Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792).
William Beckwith McInnes (1889-1939)
R. D. Elliott, late 1930s
Oil on canvas
154 x 109 cm M41