Cottage near Dromana

Born Birmingham, England 1835, arrived Australia 1853, died England 1907


In 1853, in the midst of the Victorian gold rush, Henry James Johnstone arrived in Melbourne. He initially prospected, but later his income came from his part ownership of Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co, a photographic studio opened in 1862. The business thrived and boasted a clientele of Melbourne’s elite, as well as British Royalty.

Painting, however, was Johnstone’s passion. He attended the National Gallery School, Melbourne in 1870 under Thomas Clark and took private lessons with Louis Buvelot who had great influence on Johnstone’s overall style and handling of subject matter. In 1872 he exhibited several paintings including Cottage near Dromana (1872) at the Victorian Academy of Arts, and in 1876 Johnstone’s paintings were included in the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, United States alongside Louis Buvelot and Eugene von Guérard.

Johnstone left Australia for London around 1880. He was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists from 1886 and exhibited with the Royal Academy London between 1887 and 1900. His work is represented at the National Gallery of Australia, most state galleries, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, and the State Libraries of New South Wales and Victoria.