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Sir John Franklin

Date: 1836-1850
Overall: 730 x 605 mm
Medium: Oil on canvas in gilt frame
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00001921

User Terms

    This portrait of Sir John Franklin was originally in the possession of his wife Lady Jane Franklin and was probably based on an engraving by Louis Haghe which itself is after an original pastel by Joseph Mathias Negelen.

    A midshipman under his uncle (through marriage) Matthew Flinders, Sir John Franklin later became a noted Arctic explorer. He led several expeditions to northern Canada and died in 1847, while in command of the EREBUS and TERROR, searching for the North West Passage. During Franklin's governorship Hobart provided a warm welcome to scientific expeditions.

    SignificanceThis painting shows Sir John Franklin, a prominent figure in colonial Australia who helped develop Tasmania and encouraged exploration of the continent.
    HistoryJohn Franklin was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire in 1786 and was a cousin through marriage to Matthew Flinders. He was one of the midshipmen on board HMS INVESTIGATOR during Flinders' circumnavigation of the Australian continent. Flinders named Franklin's Island in South Australia after him.

    Franklin served in the Napoleonic Wars and was appointed Tasmania's fifth Governor in 1836. As Governor-General of Tasmania from 1836 to 1843 Franklin attempted to introduce policies that favoured a more humane treatment of convicts in the penal settlement. This proved unpopular with many of his contemporary officials.

    He is best known as an Arctic explorer - perishing in 1847 while searching for the North-West Passage. He made maps of over 3,000 miles of the coastline of north Canada. The tragic story of what happened to Franklin and his crew was slowly discovered by search parties and by later expeditions. For the rest of 1845 the EREBUS and TERROR explored the coast spending the winter of 1845–46 on Beechey Island. They continued exploring when summer came and the sea was less frozen. During the winter of 1846–47, the ships became trapped in thick ice and even when summer came they were unable to escape.

    In June 1847, Franklin died and, by April 1848, 21 of the men had died. Captain Crozier, who had taken command of the expedition, decided to leave the ships and travel south. Using two boats as sledges, Crozier and the crew set out to find help. By now the men were weak from hunger and very ill. The party split up. Some of the weakest men headed back to the ship to await rescue; some of the fittest went on ahead for help and others followed at their own speed. Ultimately all of the men died.

    Sir John Franklin married Jane Griffin in 1828. She was an extraordinary woman who worked actively with her husband to bring a new level of sophistication to the colony of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).

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