The Australian Naval Contingent for China: A Farewell Concert

Accession Number ART96126
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 39.6 x 28.6 cm; Image: 15.1 x 22.8 cm
Object type Illustration
Physical description Photogravure on paper
Maker Leist, Fred
The Graphic
Date made 1900
Conflict China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
Australian Colonial Forces, 1854-1900

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


The Boxer Uprising was a series of violent civil disturbances that took place in China between 1899 and 1901. The Uprising was an attempt by armed Chinese secret societies to resist the growing foreign influence in China at the end of the 19th century. Among the most violent and popular of these societies was the I-ho-ch'uan (the Righteous and Harmonious Fists). Known as the "Boxers" by Europeans, the society gave the Boxer Rebellion its name. In early 1900 the uprising spread beyond secret societies, with foreign missionaries and civilians killed. Western powers intervened to protect their nationals and counter the threat to their territorial and trade ambitions. With the bulk of forces engaged in South Africa, naval contingents provided a pool of professional, full-time crews and reservist-volunteers. The British government sought and received permission from the Australian colonies to send two Australian squadron ships to China. In addition, the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian governments sent men from their own naval forces. To their disappointment, the Australians arrived in China too late to see any significant fighting, and were instead given guard and police duties to restore civil order. From a sketch by Fred Leist (1878-1945), this work depicts members of the NSW Naval contingent seated at tables, eating, drinking, smoking and enjoying a farewell concert in Sydney Town Hall. Leist began as a black and white artist, contributing drawings for the illustrated press, and went on to become an Official War Artist in France in 1917. Members of the naval contingents bound for China were known as 'bluejackets', and many farewell social events were held for them.