Charles Powis

Charles Powis was born 1 Sept 1816, in Southwark, London, to tailor Robert and Elizabeth Powis.
The family immigrated to the Swan River colony aboard the Rockingham, in 1830.

powis 1860Charles grew up in his father’s trade but later branched out into painting, sculpture, plastering and paper-hanging.

In 1860, he also advertised Photograph Miniatures on Ivory, Chromotypes and Ambrotypes.

In 1862, Charles presented a sculpture of Christ to the public, which was said to be the first sculpture created in Western Australia. He charged adults 2s, 6d and children 1s to view the 7’10” statue made from Roman cement, oil, lime and glass.
Newspapers were sure to mention Charles was self-taught and that this was reflected in his sculpture, with the Inquirer & Commercial News reporting; ‘The production of a working man, by trade originally a tailor, without model or copy. It is exhibited rather as an instance of perseverance and untaught talent in a poor man, than as a work of Art’.

The following month Charles held an exhibition of 70 ‘brilliantly coloured’ drawings several of which were 4 to 6 feet (122 to 182 cm) long.

The sculpture was brought out again for the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition, although it seemed opinions hadn’t waned, ‘Mr. C. Powis, a self-taught artist, for such his work pronounces him to be.’

In 1868, Charles and his brother Henry, established the Perth Plastering Company and appears to have retired from public exhibition.

Charles passed away in 1891 at the Mount Eliza Depot (Old Men’s Home) where he’d lived for several years as his body slowly succumbed to paralysis.

No photos appear to have survived of his work.


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