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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 2018 until Sunday 3 June 2018
Layne Beachley, 2008 Petrina Hicks
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 eikōn was a likeness of an exemplar, someone whose labours and deeds inspired our own striving. Later, medieval icon paintings depicted saints and deities.

1Ian Thorpe, 2002 James Houston. © James Houston. 2Cathy 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.

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

Collection: Icons Volume 2 opens on 7 June.

3 portraits

Lee Lin Chin, 2004 George Fetting © George Fetting/Copyright Agency, 2020.

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, 2002 James Houston
Ian Thorpe, 2002 James Houston
Ian Thorpe, 2002 James Houston
Ian Thorpe, 2002 James Houston

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. 

Curatorial discussion of the Inner Worlds exhibition  video: 11 minutes
Curatorial discussion of the Inner Worlds exhibition  video: 11 minutes
Curatorial discussion of the Inner Worlds exhibition  video: 11 minutes
Curatorial discussion of the Inner Worlds exhibition  video: 11 minutes

Inner Worlds

Portraits and Psychology

Previous exhibition, 2011

Portraits of Australia’s pioneering psychologists and artworks by artists fascinated by the subconscious mind.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.