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Gail Kelly, 2018

by Paul Newton

Gail Kelly, 2018 by Paul Newton
Gail Kelly, 2018 by Paul Newton

Gail Kelly (b. 1956), former banking executive, was born in South Africa and gained degrees in arts and education from the University of Cape Town before working as a high-school Latin teacher. Having completed an MBA (with distinction) at the University of the Witwatersrand, she began the 35-year executive career in banking and finance that has earned her four honorary doctorates. Throughout the 1990s, she held various general management positions, first as head of Human Resources within the Nedcor Group. In 1997, she moved to Australia to take up a senior position at the Commonwealth Bank. In 2002 she became chief executive officer and managing director of St.George Bank, which recorded double-digit growth during her six-year tenure. In 2008 she moved to head Westpac, leading its $18.6 billion merger with St.George. In 2010, the mother of four (including triplets) publicly announced a target of 40% women in management positions across the Westpac Group. With this achieved ahead of target, before Kelly retired in 2015 the goal was increased to 50% by 2017; this, too, has come to pass. She now serves on various committees, boards and councils worldwide and is an adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales. Her book Live Lead Learn: My Stories of Life and Leadership was published in 2017.

Paul Newton

‘In this portrait, I wanted to look beyond the public persona of Gail Kelly, one of Australia’s most successful female business leaders, and show something of her humanity: to capture not only her self-assuredness and determination but also her femininity and elegance. I painted Gail Kelly in a semi- formal mode with a minimal background. She is looking not at the viewer but into the middle distance, caught in a moment of reflection. During the time I spent working with Gail I was struck by her strong physical presence and it was an interesting challenge to try to translate something of that presence onto the canvas, hence my decision to paint her in a full length standing pose. I depicted Gail in her home, standing beside Cheetah Head, a cherished item from her collection, by renowned South African artist Dylan Lewis, providing not only a clue to her personal aesthetic but also a visual link to her South African heritage. The cheetah, one of nature’s fastest creatures, is perhaps also a metaphor for Gail Kelly whose ascent to the heights of the corporate world was meteoric.’

Paul Newton (b. 1961), is a Sydney-based portrait painter noted for his ability to capture likeness and sensibility. Newton completed a science degree at the University of Sydney before pursuing his interest in painting at the Julian Ashton Art School. He has been an Archibald Prize finalist eleven times, most recently for his portrait of Rupert Myer AO in 2017. His portrait of comedians John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver (Roy and HG) won the Packers’ Prize and the People’s Choice Award in 2001. Newton has twice been a finalist in the Moran Portrait Prize, and he has twice won first place in the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition – once for his portrait of David Campese, now one of the most popular paintings in the Portrait Gallery’s collection. Newton’s recent commissions include 32 works concerning the history of Catholicism in Australia for the Domus Australia Chapel in Rome. His portraits of Patrick Corrigan AM, David Gonski AC, Frank Lowy AC and Imelda Roche AO are also in the Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Commissioned with funds provided by Westpac Group and Optus 2018