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Announcing... Ralph Heimans: Portraiture. Power. Influence.

30 November 2023

In March 2024, the National Portrait Gallery will launch a major exhibition of the work of Ralph Heimans AM, the Australian artist who’s painted some of the world’s most recognisable people.

HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, 2006 Ralph Heimans AM
HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, 2006 Ralph Heimans AM. The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle

Over three decades, Ralph Heimans has established himself as an internationally sought-after portraitist, whose meticulously realised paintings revitalise a centuries-old tradition, providing unique insights into the lives of the prominent and powerful whose influence continues to shape our world.

Presented exclusively by the National Portrait Gallery from March to May 2024, Ralph Heimans: Portraiture. Power. Influence. will be the first major exhibition of the Sydney-born artist’s work in his home country. Four years in the making, this ambitious exhibition will feature some of the most significant portraits in the artist’s career to date, from his early major works through to his most recent and incorporating commissioned paintings of sitters such as King Charles III and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. Demonstrating the international nature of his practice, the exhibition will present portraits loaned from private and public collections in Australia and overseas, including works that have never been exhibited publicly in the artist’s homeland before.

An immersive and elegant exhibition design will evoke the signature elements of Heimans’ work: luminosity, symbolism, reflection, draughtsmanship and a bold approach to geometry and perspective.

Director of the National Portrait Gallery Bree Pickering said the exhibition will portray the reverence Heimans has for the conventions of traditional portraiture. “This exhibition presents Ralph’s world-famous creative process, a practice that has taken him into the homes and lives of some of the world’s most influential people. It will provide insight into his technique and the intimate relationships he builds with his subjects in order to represent them.”

Curator of Ralph Heimans: Portraiture. Power. Influence., Joanna Gilmour said, “It is wonderful to be able to bring Ralph’s work together in one place, for the first time in Australia. The National Portrait Gallery holds four portraits by Ralph Heimans in its collection, and his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was displayed at the Gallery in 2012 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. The exhibition will offer audiences an insight not only to Heimans’ skill as an artist but consider his position in the centuries old tradition of Western portraiture.”

Ralph Heimans said the exhibition is the realisation of a life-long ambition. “It is such an honour to have my work shown at Australia’s home of portraiture. A survey of my work of this scale and at this moment in my career is incredibly exciting. I am looking forward to sharing my journey as an artist and storyteller with an Australian audience and hope it will provide a thought-provoking experience.”

Born in Sydney in 1970, Heimans studied fine arts and pure mathematics at the University of Sydney and undertook extensive training in traditional European painting techniques. Focused purely on a career as a portrait painter – a rarity in Australian art history – Heimans left Australia in 1997, living in Paris and then London, gradually securing commissions from clients worldwide. In addition to the commissions he has undertaken for the royal houses of Denmark and the United Kingdom, Heimans has created the official portraits of former Governor-General of Australia Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd AC for the Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House; as well as portraits of cultural icons including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ben Kingsley, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Margaret Atwood. Heimans' portraits are held in private and public collections internationally, including those of the National Portrait Galleries in Canberra and Washington DC, the Royal Collection Trust, the Museum of National History of Denmark, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, UK. In 2014 he was named a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to portraiture.

FOR FURTHER MEDIA INFORMATION

Trish Kevin media@npg.gov.au 0408 491 545

Katrina Hall kathall@ozemail.com.au 0421 153 046

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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