Also known as
Edgar Edmund Bults,
Edmund Edgar worked in London as a house painter and engraver before being convicted of robbery and sentenced to transportation for life. He used several aliases, including Edgar Edmund Bults and Edgar Bult.
painter, engraver and lithographer, had worked in London as a house painter and engraver before being convicted of robbery and sentenced to transportation for life. He had no previous record and was described at his trial as twenty-four years old, single, Protestant and literate. On 13 September 1826, Edgar reached Sydney aboard the convict ship Marquis of Huntly . By special request he was assigned to Augustus Earle , who had recently acquired a lithographic press and, having no experience in the medium, sought Edgar’s assistance in the production of his Views in Australia and other lithographs. Before Earle left the colony the following year he asked that Edgar be re-assigned to his associate, Andrew Allen .
Edgar issued at least one independent engraving about this time, the small portrait of Governor Darling that forms the frontispiece to George Howe’s 1827 Australian Almanac . According to the Sydney Gazette of 30 July 1829, 'so scrupulous was he of ushering into the world a print that did not bear a correct resemblance of our worthy chief, but he threw aside the first plate which sustained a blemish, when nearly completed and the artist proceeded to execute his work afresh’. In the late 1820s Edgar taught painting to Samuel Elyard at Mr Gilchrist’s school in Sydney. Elyard found him 'of kind disposition, and … glad to impart a knowledge of the Art to any one who had a taste for it’.
Other details about Edgar’s life remain uncertain. His name was frequently misspelt as 'Eagar’ and he used several aliases, including 'Edmund Edgar Bults’ and 'Edgar Bult’. In 1838 he received a ticket of leave and was conditionally pardoned six years later. From then on he seems to have concentrated on portraiture. He was listed in Low’s Directory for 1847 as an artist of Argyle Street, in the Rocks area of Sydney, west of Trinity Church. He may have later have moved to Parramatta. According to the family, two portraits of Parramatta citizens dating from the 1850s or 1860s are signed on the back with the name 'Elgar’ or 'Edgar’ (now obscured). But another unconfirmed reference suggests he became a fruit and vegetable vendor in Sydney.
At London’s 2002 Olympia Fair the Moss Vale (NSW) dealer John Hawkins found a pair of watercolour on ivory miniatures of a woman and a boy signed verso 'Edmund Edgar taken in Sydney in 1834’, with the woman identified on the backing paper as Mrs J. A. Turner. Claiming that these were the earliest signed and dated Australian miniatures known, Hawkins onsold them to an Australian collector reputedly for between £10,000 and £20,000. However, the Mitchell Library owns a portrait of Mathew Wellington dated March 1833. An undated portrait of an unidentified male sitter and a miniature of a man on board ship, sold Sotheby’s, London, 1987, are inscribed on the back 'Drawn by Edmund Edgar Sydney’. Attributed watercolours in private collections include a full-length portrait of Richard Fitzgerald (previously attributed to Richard Read junior ).