Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE
1929 – 2014
Russell Drysdale and Peter Sculthorpe, Tallow Beach, New South Wales, 1969 (printed 2000)
by David Moore
gelatin silver photograph
42.5 x 28.5 cm
Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra The series David Moore: From Face to Face was acquired by gift of the artist and financial assistance from Timothy Fairfax AC and L Gordon Darling AC CMG 2001
Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE (1929–2014), composer, was born in Launceston and began music lessons around age seven, writing his first compositions by torchlight under the bedclothes at night. He studied at the University of Melbourne from age sixteen. Following a performance of his Sonatina for piano in Germany in 1955, he won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford. In 1966, Sculthorpe gained a Harkness Fellowship to study in the USA and later became composer-in-residence at Yale University. Sculthorpe stated in 1998 that, by being overseas, he ‘gained a perspective on what I had left behind at home’; consequently, many of his works explore aspects of Australian landscape, history and Indigenous culture, such as Irkanda IV (1961), Sun Music I and Sun Music III (1965 & 1967), Port Essington (1977) and Kakadu (1988). Others were influenced by Asian traditions and the music of the Pacific. In the late 1960s, Sculthorpe was appointed Reader in Music at the University of Sydney, and he later held a personal chair as its Professor in Musical Composition. An OBE and member of the Order of Australia, Sculthorpe counted being named a National Living Treasure as the most significant of his many honours and awards.
To celebrate Peter Sculthorpe's 80th birthday, the National Portrait Gallery has created a feature exhibition of portraits and associated biographic material drawn from the National Portrait Gallery and the composer’s personal collection.