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Joseph Clarke appears to have arrived in Brisbane in the later 1860s. He was an accomplished painter, teacher and art critic, and he became a leading figure within Brisbane art circles in the later 19th century. Clarke's illustrations appeared in a number of Brisbane newspapers, including the Queenslander, for which he was also an occasional columnist. In addition to the visual arts, Clarke had broader literary and cultural interests, and he was one of the founders of the Brisbane Johnsonian Club.