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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rolando, Charles (1844–1893)

by Suzanne G. Mellor

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Charles Rolando (1844-1893), artist, was born in Florence, Italy, son of an artist. He showed early ability in painting and studied in Florence. In 1870 he went to England and set up in Liverpool where his commissions included frescoes for a Roman Catholic church. At 30 he married Frances, sister of George Alfred John Webb (b.1861), a portraitist, who later lived in Adelaide and Melbourne; they had one daughter.

In 1883 Rolando and his wife left for Australia but in Cape Town he gained first prize in an art competition with his landscape of Table Mountain. He stayed for two years, busy on commissions that resulted from his win. He arrived in Melbourne in mid-1885 bringing with him 'warm recommendations on the part of Sir Hercules Robinson' and several South African landscapes which drew immediate attention. In August he opened a studio in Grey Street, East Melbourne, and was soon painting assiduously, chiefly landscapes of the Watts River and Gippsland Lakes country. By January 1886 he had completed five oil paintings of the country around Fernshaw for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London and in April contributed three large studies of the Watts River to the Victorian Academy of Arts exhibition. He became a member of the Australian Artists' Association in 1886.

In 1887 Rolando exhibited in Melbourne and major country towns his collection of twenty-eight oils and ten water-colours as well as sketches. He auctioned them in September for £900, with many of the works being sold to local galleries. He then conducted a fashionable art school at studios in Enfield Street, St Kilda. He hung paintings at the Victorian Artists' Society autumn exhibition in May 1888 and at the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition in August. In his last years he collaborated with J. H. Scheltema (1861-1938), painting the landscape backgrounds to Scheltema's cattle and horses. Critics complained that Rolando was inclined to 'dash off landscapes with such haste as to result in … unequal work'. But at his best he showed a 'rapid and facile touch, great dexterity of execution, a fine sense of colour, and a feeling for atmosphere and light, combined with unusual skill in discerning and discriminating with various forms and tints of Australian foliage'.

Delicate in health and suffering for the last two years of his life from chronic bronchitis, Rolando was regarded as something of a recluse from the artistic society of Melbourne. Aged 49, he died of pneumonia on 8 July 1893 at his home Riseda, Jackson Street, St Kilda, and was buried in the Melbourne general cemetery. He was survived by his wife.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art, vol 1 (Syd, 1934)
  • Australasian, 29 Aug 1885, 4 Aug 1888
  • Argus (Melbourne), 6 Sept 1887, 10, 11 July 1893.

Citation details

Suzanne G. Mellor, 'Rolando, Charles (1844–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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