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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.

Barry Humphries

1958
Clifton Pugh

oil on canvas (frame: 111.2 cm x 81.0 cm, support: 95.0 cm x 65.0 cm)

Barry Humphries AO CBE (b. 1934), actor, writer and artist, is the world’s all-time most successful solo theatrical performer. After studying law for two years, Humphries joined the Melbourne Theatre Company. In 1955 he created his archetypes of suburban mediocrity: Mrs Edna Everage, a Moonee Ponds mother and housewife, her longsuffering husband Norm, and the washed-out, ruminative Sandy Stone. From the late 1950s Humphries performed in his own one-man shows in Australia, Britain, Europe and the US, and Edna Everage held court with increasing flamboyance in shows including Housewife, Super-star; Edna, the Spectacle; and Eat Pray Laugh!, which Humphries announced would be her last. In 2000 Humphries won a Special Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Theatre World Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award. He was the subject of the National Portrait Gallery’s first large-scale biographical exhibition in 2002. His many books include two different autobiographies, More Please (1992) and My Life as Me (2002) as well as an autobiography of Edna Everage, My Gorgeous Life (1997) in which the meeting between Humphries and Everage is described in detail.

Clifton Pugh and Barry Humphries became friendly in the 1950s and Humphries sometimes went to stay at Dunmoochin, Pugh’s home in the bush near Melbourne. Pugh’s portrait of Humphries looking ‘haunted, angular and aesthetic’ – the very first work acquired by the National Portrait Gallery – was painted there. Through his association with Pugh, Humphries’s schoolboy interest in art revived, and Pugh helped him mount an exhibition of his works in the gallery of the Victorian Artists’ Society. The exhibition featured some collaborative collages by Humphries and Pugh and an installation of boxes of ‘Platytox’, a shocking product purportedly designed to eradicate the platypus and most marsupials. Humphries has continued to paint over the intervening years.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of L Gordon Darling AC CMG and Marilyn Darling AC 1998
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Shane Pugh

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Clifton Pugh (age 34 in 1958)

Barry Humphries (age 24 in 1958)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

L Gordon Darling AC CMG (6 portraits)

Marilyn Darling AC (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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