Tom Roberts was born 8th March 1856 in Dorchester, England and came to Australia as a child in 1869. He worked as a photographer and technician for twelve years in Melbourne and studied under Louis Buvelot and Thomas Clark. He returned to England to study at the Royal Academy and was influenced by Bastien-Lepage and Millet. In 1883 he went on a walking tour of Spain with John Peter Russell, they discovered plein air painting and embraced impressionism, Roberts returned to Melbourne in 1885.
Together with Louis Abrahams and Frederick McCubbin, they camped and painted at Box Hill and later at Mentone and Beaumaris where they met Arthur Streeton and were later joined by Charles Conder. Roberts painting nickname was 'Bulldog'. The art school and style that they developed became known as 'the Heidelberg School'.
Roberts loved to travel, extensively throughout Australia and Europe. He moved to Sydney and the group painted at their camp in Little Sirius Cove. He returned to Melbourne in 1901 and accepted a commission to paint the 'Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia' a monumental work which took him two and a half years to complete.
In 1903 Roberts journeyed back to England and returned to Melbourne twenty years later settling at Kallista in the Dandenong Ranges. Roberts had a son Caleb (1898) by his first wife Elizabeth (Lillie) Williamson who died in 1928 whereupon he married Jean Boyes. He died 14th September 1931.
His great legacy is the superb collection of landscapes, action paintings and portraits that can be seen in state, regional and private galleries in Australia.
He was the 'Father of the Heidelberg School' of Australian landscape painting.