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National Portrait Gallery Director's tenure ends in triumph

30 November 2018

Angus Trumble and David Hansen
Angus Trumble and David Hansen

National Portrait Gallery Director Angus Trumble is ending his five-year tenure with a flourish, after announcing that Gallery publication Dempsey’s People: A Folio of British Street Portraits 1824-1844 has been awarded the 2018 William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

The author, ANU Associate Professor of Art History David Hansen, took out the prize at a ceremony at the Society of Antiquaries in Burlington House, Piccadilly, which Angus had the pleasure of attending.

‘I am absolutely delighted that David’s work towards our exhibition and publication have been honoured in this way. The William MB Berger Prize carries great prestige and is awarded each year to celebrate outstanding achievement in the history of British art, and I want to congratulate David for producing such an immaculate piece of work under the Gallery’s banner’, Angus said. 

‘It really is our David and Goliath moment; we were up against a large number of heavy hitters – the Getty in Los Angeles; the Frick Collection in New York; the National Galleries in London, Edinburgh and Dublin; the V&A; the BBC; the Royal Academy; Yale University Press; Cambridge University Press; and Oxford University Press (among others). Talk about The Empire Writes Back!’

This is the first time the National Portrait Gallery has won this prize, and the wonderful achievement not only coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Gallery, but also ends my final week as Director on an absolute high – it’s a last, exuberant layer to add to my most gratifying time here.’

Born and raised in Melbourne, Angus was appointed as Director of the National Portrait Gallery in December 2013, commencing in the top job in February 2014.  Prior to this he was the Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, and before that the Curator of European Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia (1996−2001).

When asked what the best thing about working at the Gallery has been, Angus’ answer is unequivocal: ‘It’s our fantastic staff. Thinking back to some of my highlights over the past five years – the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; The Popular Pet Show exhibition and Dempsey’s People  – they were all made possible by the dedicated, hardworking and passionate Gallery staff.  I am going to miss them dearly!

These have been supremely rewarding and happy years, and I am grateful above all to the Chairman and Board for having given me the precious gift of repatriation.’

Angus’ last day as National Portrait Gallery Director is 7 December 2018. Once he hangs up his hat he will work towards completing a trio of books, as well as taking a long break to recharge the batteries, and fulfilling a long-held desire to get to Malta to see Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John the Baptist, and the incredible St Jerome in the Co-Cathedral of St John in Valletta.