Historical information

Premier 23rd January 1893 – 27th September 1894.

Born in Alnwick, England, Sir James Patterson (1833-1895) migrated to Victoria in 1852 to try his luck on the goldfields. After little success he turned his hand to farming, and later operated a slaughter yard at Chewton. Patterson served on the Chewton local council, being elected mayor four times before moving with his wife Anna and family to Melbourne in 1870.

Patterson established a real estate business, and after two unsuccessful attempts to enter parliament in 1866 and 1868, he won the by election for Castlemaine in the Legislative Assembly in December 1870. He would hold this seat until his death 25 years later. Patterson served in Sir Graham Berry’s brief August to October 1875 government as Commissioner of Public Works and Vice-President of Board and Land Works. He repeated these roles two years later in Berry’s second government and additionally served as Postmaster-General, and in Berry’s third government was Commissioner of Railways and again Vice-President of the Board of Land and Works.

In April 1889 after a time in Opposition, Patterson became Commissioner for Trade and Customs in Duncan Gillies’ Government. The following year he returned to the familiar positions of Public Works, Board of Land and Words and Postmaster-General. By 1891 Patterson was leader of the opposition, and when William Shiels’ government succumbed to a motion of no confidence, led by Patterson, he became premier on the 23rd of January 1893.

During his premiership, James Patterson was also Chief Secretary and Minister for Railways. His term as premier coincided with a period of severe economic depression, and his enforced economies earned Patterson few public admirers. In May 1893 his government attempted to prevent a run on bank withdrawals and stabilise the sector, by declaring a 5 day 'bank holiday'. Patterson was awarded a knighthood in May 1894, however this did not increase public confidence in his government who were not returned to power in the August 1894 election.

Again leader of the opposition, James Patterson died suddenly of influenza on the 30 of October 1895.


This portrait was presented to Sir James Patterson by 'grateful citizens of Victoria' in appreciation of his services during the land boom depression. In 1929 the painting was donated to the Victorian Parliamentary Library by H. Lavinia Patterson, the wife of Sir James Patterson's nephew Colonel George Patterson.

Physical description

Oil on canvas, framed.
Frame: ornate wood, gesso mouldings, unglazed.

Inscriptions & markings

Signed on bottom right corner "G. Coutts"
Stamped inscription along inner edge of canvas: "WINSOR AND NEWTON".
Inscription on canvas, handwritten in ink: "13 1 92" from reverse.