Frank C. Dunnett was a painter, lithographer and surveyor. As a chronic asthmatic he was advised to leave Britain and so in about 1856 he migrated to Australia. Dunnett moved to Tasmania and found employment with the Hobart Town Survey Office. In 1866 he exhibited at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition and was awarded a highly commended certificate for a sketch.
painter, lithographer and surveyor, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. In early life he studied medicine but gave this up for art, which he studied with a Mr Simpson and Charles Godfrey in Glasgow. Later he moved to London where, Henry Allport states, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools under J.M.W. Turner. He then worked for Day & Co., lithographers to the Queen. A chronic asthmatic, Dunnett was advised to leave Britain for a more favourable climate. He came to Melbourne about 1856 but soon left for Tasmania. There he found employment in the Hobart Town Survey Office. One of his co-workers was W.C. Piguenit and the two formed a close friendship. Dunnett is said to have given Piguenit 'advice and instruction in painting’.
Dunnett was an experienced lithographer, as the Hobart Town Courier of 12 November 1858 pointed out: 'it is no disparagement to our old lithographists whose merits have been cheerfully and freely acknowledged by the colonial Press and the public patrons of their art, to congratulate them upon the accession to their ranks in the person of Mr F. Dunnett, from Days of London, who has drawn on stone a portion of Chalmers’ Free Church and Manse in a manner which has never been equalled in the colony. The print is published by R.V. Hood [q.v.], of Fitzroy Place, from whom copies may be obtained’. (A copy of this print was known to have existed previously in a private collection but its current location is unknown.)
By 1860 Dunnett was teaching drawing at Chalmers School. Throughout the decade he continued to produce watercolours and lithographs. Watercolours include St John’s Church, New Town and Mount Wellington from the New Town Park (both c.1860, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery). He showed A Head at the Hobart Town Art Treasures Exhibition of 1862-63. Dunnett (as lithographer) and Piguenit (as original sketcher) combined to produce a Map of the Seat of War in New Zealand , advertised in November 1863 for 5s coloured, 2s 6d plain. Dunnett had engraved a New Zealand subject in 1861 – a view of Nelson College – and may already have visited the country. On 5 December 1864, Walch’s Literary Intelligencer announced that his two-colour lithographic Portrait of His Excellency the Governor (Colonel Gore Browne), published by J. Walch & Sons, was for sale at 7s 6d (TMAG). His Map of Hobart Town and some sketches of Tasmanian blue-gums were shown in the Tasmanian court at the 1866 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, the latter sketch being awarded a highly commended certificate.
Dunnett subsequently joined the government service in New Zealand, where he reputedly continued to produce paintings and lithographs. Early in 1874, at Port Chalmers, he married Annie Jane, youngest daughter of Edmund Hodgson of Glen House, Hobart, and they returned to Tasmania. He was advertising as a writing and drawing master for Hobart Town schools and families in March 1875, offering special classes for 'two or three youths, so as to qualify them for situations in Government Survey Departments’.
Dunn was responsible for Henn & Co.'s Tasmanian calendar for 1877, bordered with holly and mistletoe on one side and waratah and colonial shrubs on the other; cupids feature among roses in the top corners and a woodcut of the firm’s premises appears under the calendar. Two further lithographs have also been identified, sheet music covers for Adam Clarke compositions: The Waratah Blossom Waltz and The Garrison Parade Polka . Both date from the mid 1880s and were published by R.L. Hood at the Hobart Town Mercury office. He exhibited in the 1881 fine art exhibition at the Hobart Town Hall and in the 1886 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition. According to the catalogue of the Old Hobart Exhibition of 1896, Dunnett was responsible for painting the landscape background in the well-known portrait of Rev. Robert Knopwood, the portrait of the parson being attributed to T.G. Gregson and the pony and dog to J.W. Graves junior (qq.v.) – a group effort which must have been completed over many years. Dunnett died at Hobart on 12 October 1891.