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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Petite beauty marries gentle giant

Turning their back on success in the art and theatre worlds of Sydney in the 1960s, Janet Dawson and Michael Boddy headed for a bush love-nest, settling for some 40 years on a faraway farm they named Scribble Rock.

1 Summer 1986, 1986. 2 Michael with beetroot sprouting, 2008. 3 Self portrait, c. 1952. All Janet Dawson. © Janet Dawson/Copyright Agency, 2021.

Janet Dawson was only seventeen when she painted this self-portrait in an evening class taught by renowned portraitist William Dargie. Later, the pioneering abstract painter and printmaker fell in love with erudite playwright Michael Boddy. As collaborators and soulmates, the couple left the bustle of Sydney to live on a farm near Binalong, NSW. Janet painted and drew the natural world around her, including beetroots. Michael embraced sustainable farming and wrote about their small community. Summer 1986 was painted in stifling heat – with Boddy reclining on the couch in the sunroom – and rendered in the summery hues of the paddock outside.  Boddy called it ‘A human landscape’. ‘My only stipulation’, he said, ‘was that I should be awake, conscious of the viewer, and not at all welcoming’.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency