Skip to main content
Menu

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.

Intimacy and Alienation

1 Judith Wright with Barbara Blackman, c. 1956 Charles Blackman OBE. © Charles Blackman/Copyright Agency, 2022. 2 The black coat: Lily Brett, 1989 David Rankin OAM. © David Rankin/Copyright Agency, 2022.

The relationship between artist and sitter is greatly intimate. Sometimes over many hours, the two occupy space with a distinct nearness; the artist observing and recording characteristics that are fleeting, and often unnoticed. More than how we look, a portrait can reveal how one is seen, revealing aspects of closeness and isolation between the sitter and those they encounter: family, friends and strangers.

1 Dallas Harold, 2018 Naomi Hobson. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Linda Herd 2019. 2 Two women, 2005 Ron Mueck. National Gallery of Victoria. Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007.

The nude in portraiture has prevailed throughout history, and has developed in tandem with gender politics and social advancements. Deeply personal, the nude portrait exposes, quite literally, how one is seen in their most vulnerable state, bringing to light ideas of intimacy, familiarity and sometimes humour.

1 Jessie with doll, 1897 Hugh Ramsay. National Gallery of Victoria. Gift of Patricia Fullerton in memory of her mother, Nell Turnbull née Ramsay, niece of the artist to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Victoria, 2011. 2 The young mother, 1891 John Longstaff. National Gallery of Victoria. Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women's Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox, Ken and Jill Harrison and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013 This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation.

Portraits of families and loved ones are also seen here, and though sentimental and affectionate, many of their stories are also tarred with loss and despair. These works allow us to consider the breadth of love with its many guises and complexities.

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency