Folingsby, George Frederick (1828-91; Irish/Australian)
Bunyan in Prison 1864
Oil on canvas, 112.8 x 134 cm
Purchased by the Commissioners of Fine Arts for Victoria, 1864 (advice of Charles Eastlake)
National Gallery of Victoria (p.300.11-1) 

This image, showing Bunyan’s incarceration for supposed sedition (1660-72), was one of the first group of paintings selected for the Melbourne collection. Folingsby painted it in Munich, some years before his arrival in Australia in 1879 and his appointment as NGV Director and Master of the School of Art in 1882: see now linked artist entry for further details.

An Argus critic complained in 1868 about this work’s “flat dreariness of conception.” Nevertheless, its tableau-like narrative formula was later emulated by several of Folingsby’s Melbourne students, including John Longstaff (see linked artist entry for further details). See also Longstaff Portrait of G.F.Folingsby {1891} SLV [PA].


NGV 1875, p.22 (incorrectly noting the acquisition date as 1856); NGV 1894, pp.53-54 (IV.McArthur Gallery, no.53); NGV 1905, p.162 (IX.List of pictures on loan to country galleries, no.15) [£157/10] 

Galbally First Collections (1992), p.44 (, includes the 1868 Argus quote; see also Astbury City Bushmen (1985), esp.p.28 (discussing the formal character of the picture in relation to Folingsby’s teaching methods at the National Gallery School); and McDonald Art of Australia, vol.1 (2008), p.320, also with a good colour reproduction