Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

The Parting Cheer, 1861

Henry Nelson O'Neil (1817-1880)
Oil painting
Width: 44.5cm Height: 64.7cm

The Parting Cheer is a Victorian narrative painting depicting the departure of emigrants from their families for a new life in a far away land. It reflects the huge wave of migration, about 10 million people, leaving Britain around the mid nineteenth century onwards for other parts of the world including Australia.

Emigration aroused much emotion and was an often depicted scene in both art and literature. This painting could equally illustrate a scene in Charles Dickens, "David Copperfield": "As the sails rose to the wind and the ship began to move there broke from all the three boats three resounding cheers, which those on board took up and echoed back and which were echoed and re-echoed. My heart burst out when I heard the sound, and beheld the waving of hats and handkerchiefs."

Henry Nelson O'Neil is remembered mostly for his painting, "Eastwood Ho" of 1857. This painting shows men bound for the Crimean War as it was the most reproduced and popular 19th century picture.

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This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print. An updated edition is due for publication in 2015.
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