Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

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.

Intimate Portraits

Previous exhibition
from Saturday 2 March until Sunday 26 May 2002

Intimate Portraits is an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints that explore the less public side of portraiture. The artists included have all made portraits from people in their immediate circle - family, friends, fellow artists. The six artists in the exhibition - Andrew Daly and Mary Moore from Perth, Archibald Prize winner Janet Dawson, Guy Stuart, Kevin Lincoln and Salvatore Zofrea - are all fine painters, whose deep engagement with their sitters is expressed in their portraits.

Angela Belgiorno-Zegna, 2001 by Salvatore Zofrea
Angela Belgiorno-Zegna, 2001 by Salvatore Zofrea

Intimate Portraits is devoted to Australian artists who have made this territory their own. The painters in this exhibition are linked by the way in which their art emerges from an intimate relationship with each of their sitters. In these portraits, the identity of each sitter - as embodied in a name or a life story or a CV - does not matter; what matters is the relationship with the artist.

True portraits

Henri Matisse, perhaps the purest painter of the twentieth century, wrote in his 1954 essay on portraiture, 'True portraits, that is to say those in which the features as well as the feelings seem to come from the model, are rather rare'.

Of course, Matisse's definition of truth in portraiture is a singular view and characteristic of the artist's philosophy, yet his observation on portraiture in France in the twentieth century could also be made of portraiture in Australia at the beginning of the 21st century - true portraits are rather rare. Perhaps, though, it is a question of how rarely we see true portraits, rather than how infrequently they are made. In Australia we are exposed regularly to only a small fraction of the vast field of portrait practice. The Archibald and Moran Prize exhibitions continue to be the most conspicuous portrait salons in Australia, yet they generally attract a type of portraiture that hardly fits the Matissean definition of true portraiture. Furthermore, the commissioned portrait - the portrait in which artist and subject have been brought together in a temporary or commercial relationship - is customarily a portrait in which it would be inappropriate to search for either depth of feeling or intimacy.

Because feeling and memory were so central to Matisse's portraiture, it was inevitable that his portrait practice revolved around an intimate relationship with his subject. True portraiture, in his sense, is most likely to be discovered in portraits expressing a relationship between the artist and his friends or fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, lovers and long-term acquaintances.

Intimate Portraits is devoted to Australian artists who have made this territory their own. The painters in this exhibition are linked by the way in which their art emerges from an intimate relationship with each of their sitters. In these portraits, the identity of each sitter - as embodied in a name or a life story or a CV - does not matter; what matters is the relationship with the artist.

Although this exhibition is entitled Intimate Portraits it could as validly have been entitled Portraits without style. By which I mean; the pretensions of style evaporate in the relationship between the artist and the intimate.

Andrew Sayers
Director

10 portraits

1 Adrian Smith, 2001 by Salvatore Zofrea. 2 Kate, 1994 by Andrew Daly. 3 Paula Lindley, 1980 by Guy Stuart. 4 Daniel, 1987 by Janet Dawson.

Related information

Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993
Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993
Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993
Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993

Rarely Everage

The Lives of Barry Humphries

Previous exhibition, 2002

The exhibition begins with Barry's childhood in Camberwell, Melbourne and chronicles his days as a struggling actor in Australia and England, his creation of characters including Barry McKenzie, Dame Edna Everage, Sandy Stone and Sir Les Patterson

Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe

Contemporary Australian Portraits

Previous exhibition, 2002

Contemporary Australian Portraits is a cross section, a sampling, of some of the present-day directions in Australian portrait practice

London, 1952 by Bill Brandt
London, 1952 by Bill Brandt
London, 1952 by Bill Brandt
London, 1952 by Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt

A Retrospective

Previous exhibition, 2002

From Brandt's early work that documents fixed social contrasts of pre-World War II life in Britain to his later experimentation with a surreal style, this exhibition spans 50 years of Brandt's far reaching career in an extensive assemblage of 155 vintage gelatin silver prints from the Bill Brandt Archive in London.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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