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Nancy Borlase and Laurie Short
, 1991

by Jenny Sages

oil on canvas (179.7 x 150.0 cm)

Nancy Borlase AM (1914–2006), painter and writer, was 23 when she came to Sydney from New Zealand, where she had studied art and written a book. She continued her art studies at the East Sydney Technical College, and with Rah Fizelle and Grace Crowley. She was a member of the Contemporary Art Society from 1952 to 1970; in 1960 her first solo exhibition was held at Sydney’s Macquarie Galleries. Between 1973 and 1981 she was art critic for the Bulletin and the Sydney Morning Herald. Her husband from 1941, Laurence Short AO OBE (1915–2009), joined the Ironworkers’ Union in 1937 and the Labor Party five years later. In 1951, he became the National Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers’ Association, a position he was to hold for more than 30 years. An opponent of communism, Short is credited with keeping the Labor party together in New South Wales while it split in other states in the mid-1950s. He was the national chairman of the Metal Trades Federation from 1975 to 1982 and vice-chairman of the ABC from 1977 to 1983; he also served on the NSW Parole Board, and the boards of the Australian Opera and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Margaret Olley bought this painting from Jenny Sages to give to the National Portrait Gallery. However, darkly predicting that Sages would give away any monies received, she bought her two tickets to London to see a Pierre Bonnard exhibition instead.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the Margaret Olley Art Trust 1998
Accession number: 1998.3