In 1880, S.T. Gill died in poverty on the steps of the General Post Office in Melbourne and was buried in a pauper’s grave. But the commonly presented image of a genius artist turning to drink until unable to hold a paintbrush is largely a myth. He made some of his best and most accomplished work late in his life.

New research has given Gill a real existence and detailed biography, and has revealed the complex pattern of patronage and changing popular taste that affected Gill’s viability as an artist.

Throughout his long career Gill produced a striking series of self portraits, not recognised as such until quite recently. These document Gill’s changing perceptions of himself and the position of the artist in colonial society.

Late in his life, his faithful dogs remain his most attentive admirers, while his drawings lie scattered on the ground before an unappreciative human audience.