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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.

Shadows cast on fairy tale scene

Artist Rupert Bunny’s ‘secretiveness about himself and his feelings’ was, according to his friend Colette Reddin, ‘so great it opened the way for a vast field of speculation’.

1Self portrait with scarf, c. 1930s Rupert Bunny. 2Portrait of the artist's wife, c. 1902 Rupert Bunny. National Gallery of Victoria, Felton Bequest, 1946.

As Art Gallery of New South Wales curators observed in the 2009 catalogue Rupert Bunny, Artist in Paris, ‘In life, as in his art, Bunny’s character appears as an intriguing artifice of infinite suggestion’. From their first meeting as art students in Paris, the lovely Jeanne Morel filled his canvases, including this portrait painted around the time they married in 1902. Bunny is quoted as saying she had ‘the most beautiful mouth I have ever seen!’ Yet biographers have cast shadows over this overt, viscerally romantic picture, with suggestions that Bunny may have been indulging in other amorous liaisons on offer in 1920s Paris. And then there is Bunny’s curious reaction to his wife’s death: ‘Who will feed the little cats?’ Nevertheless, her death in 1933 saw him return home to Melbourne to see out his years.

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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.