07 February 2012

National Portrait Gallery

I was glad I made time while in Canberra to visit this impressive collection!    There are many great portraits of varying styles.
The collection concentrates on portraits of Australians, but from all walks of life. The criteria for display appears to be primarily the quality of the portrait, not the importance of the person (although the portraits are all of persons of some significance).  A number of works are from the Historic Memorials Collection (which is a long-established collection of portraits of significant Australians, especially those associated with parliamentary history),  with the result that politicians are well represented.   Nevertheless, there are many prominent Australians (including politicians!) who are not represented.  Even so, I was a little surprised that I didn't notice even a single portrait of a religious figure.  Presumably this isn't as a result of any conscious policy decision?
I was pleased  that, although the style ranges from traditional to contemporary, there aren't too many really "modernistic" works!  Not too much Archibald Prize stuff here!
In addition to to paintings, there are a number of photos and busts.
The only portrait of English royalty is a massive portrait of Edward VII, but royalty is also represented by Princess Mary of Denmark (actually, this wasn't one of my favourite works).
I rather liked the self portrait of Alan Bond (painted while he was in prison). Other works of note included Dobell's portrait of Menzies (painted in 2 weeks for Time magazine to use on the cover) and Clifton Pugh's of Sir John Kerr and Barry Humphries.  For the record, there's also an interesting photo of Dame Edna!    However, it's really a little unfair single out particular works, as I found nearly everything to be of interest. 

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