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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.

The Wonder Years

by Sarah Hill, 1 December 2001

Sarah Hill introduces the portrait busts of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm by Enid Fleming.

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm, 1961 William Dargie
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm, 1961 William Dargie. © Roger Dargie

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm make a welcome inclusion to the National Portrait Gallery's collection. Their spectacular and record breaking flights around Australia, to England, the United States and New Zealand captivated a nation for whom, due to its geography, air travel was crucial. Both veterans of Gallipoli, they became close friends and colleagues in 1926 and remained so until their untimely deaths.

The works are two patinated plaster busts by Enid Fleming, and a renowned double portrait of the duo by the honoured portraitist Sir William Dargie.

It was commissioned by Walter B. Phillips, Sydney-based American managing director of Esso, successor company to Atlantic Union, whose Californian representative Locke Harper in 1928 tirelessly and much at his own expense succoured Kingsford Smith and Ulm in their heartbreaking slog to mount the first Trans-Pacific flight.

The closeness and ease of the figures serve to remind us of the role mateship has played in our culture. The brightness of colour and light generate a feeling of optimism. Indeed, discussing the portrait, Dargie commented 'For me, this painting expresses a confident, young Australia'.

Fleming sculpted the two patinated plaster busts in 1932. The elegant lines of the turned up coat collars frame the faces of these gallant gentlemen of the skies. With their smooth finish and art deco style they draw on a more romantic view of early aviation.

The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to add Australia's foremost heroes of aviation to its collection and sincerely thanks the Sydney Airports Corporation and Dr Lawrence Kingsford Sayer for this gift.
 

3 portraits

1Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, 1932. 2Captain Ulm, 1932. Both Enid Fleming © Estate of Enid Fleming

Related information

Portrait 2, December 2001 - February 2002

Magazine

This issue of Portrait Magazine features David Moore, Midnight Oil, Dr Joan Croll by John Brack, the acquisition of the Captain Cook portrait, and more.

Puberty, 1984
Puberty, 1984
Puberty, 1984

Personal Politics

Magazine article by Dr Frances Borzello

Dr Frances Borzello, British art historian and author discusses the uniqueness of women's self-portraits.
Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney, 1984 (printed 2000) David Moore
Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney, 1984 (printed 2000) David Moore
Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney, 1984 (printed 2000) David Moore

A Captured Moment

Magazine article by Simon Elliott

The acquisition of David Moore's archive of portrait photographs for the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

Nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground, 2001 eX de Medici
Nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground, 2001 eX de Medici
Nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground, 2001 eX de Medici

Seduce and Destroy

Magazine article by Magda Keaney

Magda Keaney explores the symbolism in eX de Medici's portrait of Midnight Oil.

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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.