Artwork of the month

Alexander Schramm South Australian Natives on The Tramp 1859

Alexander Schramm (1813-1864)

South Australian Natives On The Tramp c1859.

29.5 x 43.4 cm

Lithograph printed from two stones.


A tranquil depiction of life for a group of indigenous Australians.

Printed from two lithographic stones c1859, it is one of the few prints that have survived from Schramm’s life. It is also one of the largest prints he undertook.

The work is thought to have been produced with the help of Penman & Galbraith, the longest surviving printmakers in South Australia. The title; South Australian Natives on the Tramp has been printed into the lower margin.

The total edition of this lithograph is not known; it is unlikely that many have survived. Overall the paper is slightly discoloured, and a tear has been repaired on the upper left quadrant. The work has large intact margins.

We have been able to locate the following impressions of this lithograph in public collections:

National Gallery:NGA 89.1375 NGA IRN: 96297 (poor condition)

State Library of South Australia: B 70986

National Library of Australia: Rex Nan Kivell NK436/B



A native of Berlin, Germany, where his father was a bookseller, Schramm studied at the Berlin Academy of the Arts. Once his study was complete he travelled in Eastern Europe for several months before settling in Poland. Schramm exhibited at the Berlin Academy between 1834 and 1838. In 1849 he migrated to South Australia arriving on the 7th of August aboard the Princess Louise, one of 12 ships that brought around 1500 German immigrants to South Australia. His reasons for leaving Europe are unknown. It is possible the political and religious unrest of 1848 played a role in his departure. His life in Adelaide was not well documented, he was unmarried, and did not have any direct family in South Australia. He died of Tuberculosis on the 8th of November 1864, at the age of 50 and was given a pauper’s burial. A directory entry from 1851 lists an Alexander Schramm, Painter at Charles Street.

Schramm was one of a small group of colonial artists who painted in a way that treated the indigenous people with great sensitivity. His paintings and lithographs, predominately depicting indigenous life, reflect their plight and even show contempt for European values. Focusing on the Australian landscape and the manners and customs of the Aborigines, his work is culturally significant. He exhibited his paintings at the South Australian Society of Arts from as early as 1850. He soon developed a reputation for his talent with the brush. Art critic Mary Overbury described the artist and his situation:

“A German by birth, an artist by nature and training, small in stature, dark and somewhat retiring in disposition, he made but few intimates and lived on the proceeds of his brush, his paintings were often disposed of far beneath their real value”

Much of Schramm’s work has been lost with time, many examples did not survive and19th century Australia did not value his works as we do today.

Schramm’s works are held in the following institutions:

The National Gallery, The National Library, The South Australian State Library, The South Australian State Gallery, The Mitchell Library


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Alexander Schramm South Australian Natives on The Tramp 1859