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Presence and Absence

Portrait Sculpture in Australia

Daily from Friday 22 August 2003 until Sunday 16 November 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. The scope of the exhibition is wide and reflects two aims.

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

Firstly to particularise certain specific moments in Australian history, including the shaping of Aboriginal-white contact in the 19th century and the construction of national identity through the mythologies of the bushman and the ANZAC. And secondly to focus on sculpture’s historical association with the service of death, especially through its emphasis on the function of commemoration.

12 portraits

1Conamdatta, a North(ern) Queensland Aboriginal man, 1897
by James White (1862-1918). 2Portrait bust of Mrs Gerald Marr Thompson, 1892 by Emile Leysalle (1847- after 1902).
© National Portrait Gallery 2019
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 Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land upon which the NPG stands.