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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.

Lewis Morley

Myself and Eye

Previous exhibition from Friday 14 March 2003 until Sunday 29 June 2003

Lewis Morley has a great eye for a shot and a sharp ear for a pun. He invented the title for this exhibition - Lewis Morley: Myself and Eye. Lurking in the double-entendre of the title are two truths about his photography. He has lived his photographs: so his work has a particular historic interest. But, at a deeper artistic level, he has achieved a personal engagement with his subjects that has allowed him to get in close, and to take our eyes in there with him.

Barry Humphries, 1962 Lewis Morley
Barry Humphries, 1962 Lewis Morley

Lewis Morley is an artist, and I hope this exhibition creates a wider public recognition of this fact. It is significant that Lewis Morley came to photography at a time when he aspired to be a painter. You can see his painter’s eye at work in his photographs. There is a distinctive compositional dynamism in many of his pictures in which tonality is balanced with a delicate linearity (with a preference for the Matissean arabesque). And he loves rusticated and worn surfaces, soft light and warm shadows.

There remains a prejudice regarding photographic portraiture that is entirely unjustifiable at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Painting, good or bad, still has a privileged position. Yet, to look at the work of a great photographer such as Lewis Morley, is to understand some of the things the photograph can do that painting can not. Only photographs can portray contemporary sitters in the complexity of their social relationships. Only photographs can present the natural settings of the subject without contrivance or staginess. Only photographs can admit the truly informal or accidental rather than the invented. Lewis Morley exploits all of these characteristics; the energy and intimacy of his portraits come from his engagement with the subject’s milieu combined with a fine sense of the dramatic possibilities of everyday life. And underlying it all, a terrific openness to chance.

The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, since its inception, has been committed to presenting the works of leading photographers. As a relatively new institution we have benefited from the determination by our sister institutions overseas to take photography seriously. Lewis Morley’s immensely popular exhibition at the NPG in London in 1989-90 was a significant part of the presentation of this heritage of the recent history of photographic portraiture. The London exhibition focussed on the 1960s, but we have taken both a wider view (including many works made after the photographer emigrated to Australia in 1971). The exhibition curator, Magda Keaney, has taken a characteristically fresh approach and has worked with Lewis Morley to present a body of work that highlights the different areas in which he has worked and to bring out both unfamiliar works and those which define his essential world-view.

I would like to thank Lewis Morley for his continuing engagement with the National Portrait Gallery and for the great generosity he and his wife Pat have shown towards us.

Andrew Sayers
Director

6 portraits

1Peter Carey, 1989. 2Nicole Kidman, c. 1980. 3Brett Whiteley, 1974. 4Junie Morosi, 1975. All Lewis Morley.
Lewis Morley tour dates

Originally shown at the National Portrait Gallery
Friday 14th March until Sunday 29th June 2003

State Library of Victoria

Friday 5th September until Sunday 23rd November 2003

Related information

Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor

Australia and the Nobel Prize

Previous exhibition, 2003

This unique exhibition will give an insight into the private lives, pursuits and work of all the Nobel laureates associated with Australia

Cate Blanchett, 2002 (printed 2004) Karin Catt
Cate Blanchett, 2002 (printed 2004) Karin Catt
Cate Blanchett, 2002 (printed 2004) Karin Catt
Cate Blanchett, 2002 (printed 2004) Karin Catt

Australians in Hollywood

Previous exhibition, 2003

Although perceived to be a recent phenomenon, the 'Aussie invasion' of Hollywood can actually be traced as far back as the early 1900s

Checkered Past, 2003 by Alex Epoff
Checkered Past, 2003 by Alex Epoff
Checkered Past, 2003 by Alex Epoff
Checkered Past, 2003 by Alex Epoff

Headspace 4

Facing Memory

Previous exhibition, 2003

Facing Memory: Headspace 4 provides us with valuable insights into the thoughts, creative processes and art-making practices of secondary students from Year 7 to Year 12 from sixty-two schools in the Australian Capital Territory, regional New South Wales and Victoria

Decorative portrait – Len Lye, c.1925 by Rayner Hoff (1894-1937)
Decorative portrait – Len Lye, c.1925 by Rayner Hoff (1894-1937)
Decorative portrait – Len Lye, c.1925 by Rayner Hoff (1894-1937)
Decorative portrait – Len Lye, c.1925 by Rayner Hoff (1894-1937)

Presence and Absence

Portrait Sculpture in Australia

Previous exhibition, 2003

This exhibition focuses on exploring national and communal identity through sculptural production in Australia, from the early decades of settlement through to the present day

We would like to thank our partners.
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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.