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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.

Rarely Everage

The Lives of Barry Humphries

Previous exhibition from Saturday 23 November 2002 until Sunday 16 February 2003

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. Such satirical creations, at times, have led him into turbulent relationships with his country of birth and his many lives - as writer, comedian, artist, actor, entertainer, social provocateur and celebrity are explored.

Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993 John Elliott
Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993 John Elliott. © John Elliott

‘He is gifted with so many talents it is almost unfair. He can write, he can create superb comic verse, he can produce novels, plays, and he is an artist. His knowledge of art is such he should be on the board of the National Gallery. He has an amazing insight into esoteric Edwardian and Victorian writers and who knows as much about Art Nouveau? Ah, but this is the key to Barry Humphries, he is a one-man act. He can create all his own material and has the bravado to go ahead, utterly fearless, and put it on stage. Without doubt he is the most successful entertainer Australia has produced with the possible exception of Dame Nellie Melba.’

Keith Dunstan, Journalist

A highlight of the National Portrait Gallery year is the biographical exhibition, Rarely Everage: The Lives of Barry Humphries.

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. Such satirical creations, at times, have led him into turbulent relationships with his country of birth and his many lives - as writer, comedian, artist, actor, entertainer, social provocateur and celebrity are explored.

Rarely Everage includes photographs, books, manuscripts, early drawings, Dada-inspired sculptures, paintings, dresses and fashion accessories.

The exhibition has drawn loans from public and private collections in Australia and overseas including many from the Barry Humphries-Dame Edna Everage Collection at the Performing Arts Museum, Victorian Arts Centre.

11 portraits

1Sir Les Patterson, 1999 Polly Borland. © Polly Borland. 2Dressed up as sailor, 1937 by Eric Humphries. 3Bathing costume with sprinklers (aged 4 – 5), 1939 by Eric Humphries. 4Barry Humphries ‘acting the goat’ unknown photographer.

Related people

Barry Humphries

Rarely Everage tour dates

Originally shown at the National Portrait Gallery
Saturday 23rd November 2002 until Sunday 16th February 2003

Arts Centre Melbourne

Thursday 3rd July until Sunday 24th August 2003

Related information

Barry Humphries, 1958 Clifton Pugh
Barry Humphries, 1958 Clifton Pugh
Barry Humphries, 1958 Clifton Pugh
Barry Humphries, 1958 Clifton Pugh

No Laughing Matter

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2002

The biographical exhibition of Barry Humphries was the first display of its kind at the National Portrait Gallery.

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

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.

The Joy Of Life, 2002 by Janelle McKay
The Joy Of Life, 2002 by Janelle McKay
The Joy Of Life, 2002 by Janelle McKay
The Joy Of Life, 2002 by Janelle McKay

Headspace 3

Being Me

Previous exhibition, 2002

The self-portrait enables students to explore emerging and changing aspects of their own identity, their sense of self, their place in the world, their experience of being human

We would like to thank our partners.
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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.