The Prolific Mr. Charles Keene


  • Laurie Benson Curator, International Art National Gallery of Victoria


Charles Keene, Australian print history, illustration


This short article provides an overview of the collection of prints, drawings and watercolours by the British artist-illustrator, Charles Samuel Keene (1823-91), held in the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Unrivalled in terms of its size and breadth of content, Benson selects examples from the collection to describe Keene’s career and his place within the nineteenth-century British art world, including his relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The history of the NGV’s acquisition of the collection and its recent digitization are also examined.

Author Biography

Laurie Benson, Curator, International Art National Gallery of Victoria


Laurie Benson completed a BA Honours in Art History at La Trobe University, and postgraduate studies in Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne before joining the National Gallery of Victoria. He has curated numerous exhibitions, including, more recently, Medieval Moderns: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (2015), The Horse (2015, with Ted Gott), and was the co-ordinating curator of the Winter Masterpiece exhibition for 2014, Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado.


“Charles Keene’s Drawings.” Spectator, 21 March 1891: 13.

“Dry Point” [William Michael Rossetti]. “The Art of Punch [second notice].” Spectator, 21 Sept. 1861: 1036.

Houfe, Simon. The Work of Charles Samuel Keene. Aldershot & Melbourne: Scolar P, 1995.

Lake, J., ed. Exhibition of the British Art Gallery by the Royal Anglo-Australian Society of Artists, with which is associated the German art gallery and a selection of pictures by Australian artists 1892, Exhibition Building, Melbourne: illustrated catalogue. Melbourne, 1892.

Layard, G. S. The Life and Letters of Charles Samuel Keene. London: Sampson Low, Marsten and Co., 1892.

Lindsay, Lionel. Charles Keene, the Artists’ Artist. London: P. & D. Colnaghi’s, 1934.

NGV website for Charles Keene. Digitisation project headed by Laurie Benson, Curator of International Art, NGV, funded by the Joe White Bequest, and supported by the NGV:

Charles Keene, Interior of a boat builders shed, c. 1860. Pen and brown ink on blue paper,  National Gallery of Victoria. See Fig. 5 below for full details.