Skip to main content

Portrait Assortment

Reflections on portraiture

Early last week I received a rather unusual request from the Australian Financial Review. The question was, “Tell us about the most special present you have ever received. Why is it so special?” After much rumination overnight I realised that the correct answer was literally staring at me in his quiet way from his spot on the chest of drawers. This is what I wrote: “Many years ago, probably at around the time I was born or very soon afterwards, a beloved aunt of mine knitted for me in Geelong a very handsome bear. His name is Brownie. She also knitted for Brownie a stylish pair of fire-engine red shorts with knitted suspenders, and a matching short-sleeved cardigan."

His late Holiness Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark came to lunch at Government House, Melbourne, in November or December 1989, accompanied by a large entourage of Coptic clerics.

Now, Sandy, the Governor’s golden retriever, was mostly a very placid and well-behaved dog, but on this occasion, faced with such an intriguing gathering, she became very excited. 

Helena Rubinstein (1872‒1965) was the first self-made millionairess of modern times, and created the first publicly-listed global cosmetics corporation. That business began its life in 1902, in a rented upstairs room at 274 Collins Street, Melbourne. Two of Helena Rubinstein’s uncles emigrated from Krákow to Victoria in the 1880s, and established a mixed business in Coleraine. She followed them, unaccompanied, in 1896. She seems to have become convinced that lanolin from local fleeces might be used to improve and adapt the twelve pots of her mother’s face cream she brought with her from Poland. 

I remember seeing a self-portrait photograph of Warwick Baker aged in his mid-twenties seven years ago.  He was standing on the bank of Canberra’s Molonglo River, near the hospice where his mother had passed away.