Gilfillan, a Jersey-born Scottish artist, emigrated with his family to the New Zealand Company's settlement at Wanganui in the 1830s. A Maori attack on his farm in April 1847 saw his wife and three of his children killed. Soonafter the artist left the country for Australia: 'At the end of 1847 Gilfillan emigrated to Sydney with three of his surviving children, leaving his married daughter, Georgina Allison, in Wanganui. He advertised lessons in painting in oil and watercolours and in the principles and practice of perspective in the Sydney Morning Herald on 12 January 1848. His studio was first in Gloucester Street, then in Harrington Street.' (E. Frame in K. Kerr (ed.), Dictionary of Australian Artists ..., Melbourne, 1992, p.294). He moved to Adelaide in 1849 and settled in Melbourne from May 1852 (the moves following those of his sister and brother-in-law) until his retirement in 1862. He was one of three artists elected to draw up the rules for the Victorian Society of Fine Arts when it was founded in 1856.
Andrew Murray emigrated to South Australia in 1839, and became goverment printer in the colony in 1843. A journalist and newspaper proprietor, he was in Victoria in the 1850s, editing the Argus in 1855-56, and died at Waterloo, Gipps Land, on 7 October 1880, aged 67.
A watercolour of a young woman which may be a companion to the present portrait (and possibly the artist's sister, Murray's wife), of similar size and format, also a vignette and also dated 1848, is in the Mitchell Library, Sydney (ML347) for which see E. Buscombe, Artists in early Australia and their portraits, Sydney, 1978, 19/1 P., pp.253-4 (illustrated). Twelve pictures and watercolours by Gilfillan, including family portraits, are in the collection of the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui.