From the early 1800s, the British were encouraged to emigrate to Australia and become wealthy by working the land or, from the 1850s, by trying their luck on the goldfields. This work represents the changing popular response to emigration to Australia.
When Abraham Solomon painted Second Class in 1854, circumstances in England and Australia had changed dramatically. Gold had been discovered in Australia, transportation had virtually ceased and the political print had lost its popularity in England. Solomon’s painting shows a young man leaving for the goldfields, his family accompanying him on the train journey. The work is aimed at a sentimental middle-class market – when will the mother see her son again?
This painting forms part of a wider genre presenting free settlers (and gold rush emigrants) to Australia and other British empire colonies. After receiving accolades at the Royal Academy, Second Class, together with its counterpart First Class 1954, became popular through printed reproductions,being produced as a lithographic print both in England and Germany.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002