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Sir Sidney Kidman
, 1932

by Samuel Woolf

charcoal heightened with white chalk (sheet: 65.5 x 50.2 cm)

Sir Sidney Kidman, pastoralist (1857–1935), was Australia’s ‘cattle king’. Kidman ran away from his Adelaide home as a boy. Finding work with an itinerant cattleman, he learned much about bushcraft from an Aboriginal man he befriended. After working for a couple of years as a rouseabout and stockman around Broken Hill, he bought a bullock team and began carting supplies between isolated settlements in NSW and Victoria. In the early 1870s he established a butcher’s shop in Cobar that was successful enough for him to set up as a large squatter, dealing cattle and horses to add to the income he was earning from his coach transport enterprises in New South Wales and Western Australia. In the 1880s he bought his first station, in the Northern Territory; over the following twelve years he built up two giant chains of properties stretching across vast tracts of country that enabled him to move stock where rain had fallen. By World War I he held land almost equal in area to that of Victoria. He contributed substantially to the armed forces during the war and was knighted in 1921, the day after he donated his country home, Eringa, to the South Australian government. In the mid-1920s, he weathered a land-tax evasion case that dragged on for three years; by 1927, according to historian Russel Ward, his name had come to signify ‘a complex of interlocking companies, partnerships and agencies with branches in all the mainland capital cities and some country towns’. By the time he died, Kidman was internationally famous as one of the world’s biggest landowners; this drawing was made to accompany an article about him in the New York Herald Tribune in July 1932.

Samuel Johnson Woolf, American painter, lithographer and illustrator, was born in New York City. He studied with Kenyon Cox and George de Forest Brush at the Art Students’ League and the National Academy of Design. In World War I he worked in Europe as a frontline artist-correspondent for Time magazine. In this capacity he painted portraits of General John C Pershing, commanding general of the US forces, and French general Joseph Joffre amongst others. Other subjects of portraits by Woolf include Franklin D Roosevelt, Josef Stalin and Edgar Allen Poe. Renowned for extracting confidences from his sitters as he worked, Woolf wrote several volumes of reminiscences including Drawn from Life (1932) and Hear I Am (1942).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2009
Accession number: 2009.6