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Robert Hannaford

b. 1944

Robert Hannaford (b. 1944), a largely self-taught artist, grew up on his family farm before working as political cartoonist for the Adelaide Advertiser from 1964 to 1967. In 1969 he won the inaugural AME Bale Scholarship. He took up painting full-time in 1970 with the encouragement of the veteran South Australian portraitist, Sir Ivor Hele. He has been a favourite in both the Archibald Prize – in which he has been a finalist 23 times, and won the People’s Choice Award three times – and the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, which he won in 1990. Much in demand as an official portraitist, he painted the Historic Memorials Committee’s official prime-ministerial portrait of Paul Keating and the official Centenary of Federation painting that now hangs in Parliament House alongside Tom Roberts’s ‘Big Picture’. The National Portrait Gallery owns his portraits of Dame Joan Sutherland, Robert Dessaix, Alexander Ramsay and Lowitja O’Donoghue, the latter painted on commission. From July to October 2015 the Art Gallery of South Australia showed more than 200 of his works in the solo exhibition Robert Hannaford.

Hannaford works in a studio in the small South Australian town of Riverton, his easel placed beneath a skylight that enables him to exploit the full range of daylight. He has painted hundreds of portraits. Enjoying the discipline imposed by a commission, he is open to ideas from his sitters about how they would like to be portrayed, finding that they often lead him into new ways of seeing and composing. 'I can find anything interesting,' he says. 'I could look at the corner of the room and find a painting that could keep me going for ages.'

Updated 2018