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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.

Karsh

Faces of the Twentieth Century

Previous exhibition from Thursday 12 November 1998 until Sunday 7 February 1999

Yousuf Karsh - the most famous portrait photographer in the world - has photographed the statesmen, artists, literary and scientific figures who have defined the 20th century and shaped our lives.

Yousuf Karsh by George O'Neill
Yousuf Karsh by George O'Neill

In his 90th year, the National Portrait Gallery was thrilled to present an exhibition of Karsh's photography of 20th century figures.

Karsh rose to international prominence for his photograph of defiant Winston Churchill in 1941, taken in two minutes just moments after one of the war leader's pivotal speeches delivered before the Canadian Parliament. In his career, which now spans more than half a century, Karsh has created many of the most famous photographic portraits of the most famous people.

Karsh: Faces of the 20th Century was presented in three memorable sections in one of the new gallery spaces of the National Portrait Gallery at Old Parliament House in Canberra.

'Faces of Government' is a selection of portraits by Karsh of religious and political leaders and monarchs. It includes Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Nikita Kruschev, Pope John XXIII, Nelson Mandela, Princess Grace and Queen Elizabeth II.

'Faces of Worldmaking' includes Karsh's portraits of hunmanitarians, heros and worldmakers such as Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Marshall McLuhan, the Apollo 11 crew, Edmund Hillary, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

'Faces of the Imagination' is the largest of three sections and demonstrates Karsh's forte - portraits of other artists working in a broad spectrum of media including dance, visual arts, performance and literature. It features leading artistic figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Glenn Gould, Laurence Olivier, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Humphrey Bogart and Georgia O'Keeffe.

This exhibition draws on the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the National Archives of Canada, and the expertise of Melissa Rombout, a Canadian art historian, archivist and curator who has worked closely with Karsh Archive over the last eight years and most recently curated Karsh in London at Canada House, London. Ms Rombout has advised on the thematic development of the exhibition.

Related information

Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance
Gallery two entrance

Collection display galleries

Previous exhibition, 2019

The collection display includes a wide selection of portraits that tell extraordinary stories of encounter, exploration, independence, individuality and achievement in Australia. Visitors to the Gallery can follow the development of portraiture from oil painting to digital media.

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The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia


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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.