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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.

Collection: Icons

Volume One

Previous exhibition
from Saturday 24 February until Sunday 3 June 2018
Layne Beachley
Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks. © Commonwealth of Australia

When a portrait communicates determination and individuality as boldly as these do, it has the potential to become an iconic image. For the Gallery’s 20th birthday this display brings together a group contemporary photographic portraits of inspiring women and men.

In ancient Greece an eik┼Źn was a likeness of an exemplar, someone whose labours and deeds inspired our own striving. Later, medieval icon paintings depicted saints and deities.

1 Ian Thorpe, 2002 James Houston. © James Houston. 2 Cathy Freeman, 1995 Montalbetti + Campbell. © Montalbetti & Campbell.

Two-thirds of the Gallery’s 2,600 portraits are photographs. Since its invention by French scientist Nicéphore Niépce two centuries ago, photography has become the dominant portrait medium of our time.

1 Kurt Fearnley, 2012 Adam Knott. © Adam Knott. 2 Dan Sultan, 2011 Martin Philbey. © Martin Philbey. 3 Carla Zampatti, 2015 Georges Antoni. © Georges Antoni.

Collection: Icons Volume 2 opens on 7 June.

3 portraits

1 . Lee Lin Chin 2004 All George Fetting. © George Fetting/Copyright Agency, 2021.

Related people

Dr Christopher Chapman (curator)

Related information

Miles and Arkie, 2015 by Clint Peloso
Miles and Arkie, 2015 by Clint Peloso
Miles and Arkie, 2015 by Clint Peloso
Miles and Arkie, 2015 by Clint Peloso

Shop Talk

Magazine article by Stephen Phillips, 2016

Angus and the arbiters talk (photo) shop for the National Photographic Portrait Prize.

Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe

Collection: Icons

Volume Two

Previous exhibition, 2018

The second instalment of a display featuring bold contemporary portraits drawn from the collection. For the Gallery’s 20th birthday this display brings together a group contemporary photographic portraits of inspiring women and men.

Maryan, 2010 by Rod McNicol
Maryan, 2010 by Rod McNicol
Maryan, 2010 by Rod McNicol
Maryan, 2010 by Rod McNicol

Life and time

Portraits by Rod McNicol

Previous exhibition, 2015

Australian photographer Rod McNicol has consistently analysed the passing of time through the evidence of the photographic portrait. At once confronting and tender, McNicol’s portrait photographs are bold and intimate. 

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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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.

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