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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.

Beached (Yuraygir self-portrait), 2015

by Nicholas Harding

oil on linen
183x183cm
Private collection, Stradbroke Island
Courtesy of Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

Nicholas Harding has created scores of scenes of people on hot scrub-fringed beaches of the north coast of New South Wales. Beached - People’s Choice for the University of Queensland Art Museum’s National Self Portrait Prize in 2015 - synthesises typical elements of his practice in a dashing, wry assertion of his accomplishments over decades. The background comprises the kind of north coast scrub that Harding’s made his own, in life and in ink and paint. While the Yuraygir bush really does look just like that, it’s also a metaphor for middle-aged life: it’s very difficult to get through, there are dead sections, tangled parts, bits that have dropped off, bits that are propped up, there’s a mat of weedy material on the creeping move. Often, Harding’s depicted such vegetation in ink on layers of thick paper, which he’s gouged, scored and scraped away for texture and tone. Here he’s built it up, in stunningly lavish, luscious paint. He’s rendered branches and sticks in the upper right quadrant in creamy chocolate and caramel oils, sand in the lower right in unctuous fudgy vanilla. Paraphernalia of the adult beachgoer – all protective - clutters the foreground with rich colour. We infer the subject’s come in from a long swim; he’s relishing the illicit pleasure of broiling in the sun. The string lies drying upon his bunched-up trunks. His feet splay like those of Manet’s Dead toreador on the sand of the bullring. His sunken belly and prominent ribs recall Holbein’s Body of the dead Christ in the tomb. In truth, it looks as if part of his ribcage has been gnawed by scavenging animals. But still, his blue eye flashes. Harding’s prostrated figure peeks covertly at himself, painting his own bravura portrait. 

Related information

David Marr, 2011 by Nicholas Harding
David Marr, 2011 by Nicholas Harding
David Marr, 2011 by Nicholas Harding
David Marr, 2011 by Nicholas Harding

Through thick and thin

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2017

Sarah Engledow likes the manifold mediums of Nicholas Harding’s portraiture.

Hugo at home (Hugo Weaving), 2011 Nicholas Harding
Hugo at home (Hugo Weaving), 2011 Nicholas Harding
Hugo at home (Hugo Weaving), 2011 Nicholas Harding
Hugo at home (Hugo Weaving), 2011 Nicholas Harding

Nicholas Harding

28 Portraits

Previous exhibition, 2017

Nicholas Harding: 28 portraits features paintings of Robert Drewe, John Bell and Hugo Weaving alongside gorgeously coloured recent oil portraits, delicate gouaches and bold ink and charcoal drawings.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
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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.