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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daplyn, Alfred James (1844–1926)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Alfred James Daplyn (1844-1926), artist, was born in London. He studied at the Slade School in London, the National Academy in New York, under Leon Gérôme at L'Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris and in Rome. He also studied under Carolus-Duran and Corot, and sought inspiration at artist colonies in Pont-Aven and Barbizon in France; some of his work was exhibited at the Old Salon, London. He migrated to Melbourne in 1881 and next year exhibited his 'Showery Weather' and 'The Boat-Builder' at the Victorian Academy of Arts; according to the Argus, 25 March 1882, he 'painted in the low tones after the French method, and in the style of the “impressionists”', possibly the first use of the word in an Australian context. Certainly his plein air painting gave effects of light and atmosphere not possible in a studio, and his works were broader than those of William Piguenit, Nicholas Chevalier and even Abram-Louis Buvelot whose methods were becoming rather old-fashioned.

Daplyn moved to Sydney in 1884, became secretary of the New South Wales Art Society and its instructor in painting in 1885-92. Among the artists he influenced were Charles Conder, Sydney Long and perhaps most of all, Julian Ashton, with whom he often painted on the Hawkesbury River. One of the many paintings exhibited by Daplyn was 'The moon is up and yet 'tis not night'; it was bought by the trustees of the National Gallery of New South Wales in 1900 and sold in 1946. About 1892 he visited at Vailima his old friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, whom he had met in his student days in France, and painted for nearly a year in Samoa. He then returned to Sydney and set up as an art expert, giving lessons and making illustrations. In 1902 he published Landscape Painting from Nature in Australia, a manual for the student in oil and water colours. In 1913 a substantial legacy took him to Paris and London; after World War I he made a sketching tour in Belgium. By 1920 he was back in Sydney; in 1924 he returned to England. Aged 82 he died at Chelsea on 19 July 1926. He left his 'paintings, pictures and books' to the artist William Lister Lister.

Select Bibliography

  • J. R. Ashton, Now Came Still Evening On (Sydney, 1941)
  • Bernard Smith, Australian Painting 1788-1960 (Melbourne, 1962)
  • A. McCulloch, Encyclopedia of Australian Art (London, 1968)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25 Mar 1882
  • Bulletin, 5 Aug 1926
  • Australasian, 7 Aug 1926
  • manuscript catalogue under Daplyn (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Daplyn, Alfred James (1844–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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