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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.

Patrick White, 1980

William Yang

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 60.6 cm x 50.8 cm, image: 48.8 cm x 33.0 cm)

Patrick White (1912–1990), novelist and playwright, is the only Australian author to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1973). White was born in London to a family of Hunter River graziers and spent his youth between England and Australia, at one point returning from study abroad to work as a jackeroo. After a spell as an intelligence officer in North Africa during World War II, he returned to Australia with Manoly Lascaris. The two men lived first at rural Castle Hill, north of Sydney, and later in Centennial Park, partners for fifty years while White’s friendships with many others were turbulent and often cruelly curtailed. White’s novels include The Aunt’s Story, The Tree of Man, Voss, Riders in the Chariot, The Vivisector, The Eye of the Storm, and The Twyborn Affair. During the 1970s, becoming increasingly depressed at Australians’ complacency and superficiality, White spoke out on various political issues including nuclear disarmament and heritage preservation. He refused honorary doctorates from Cambridge, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. Flaws in the Glass (1981) is White’s ‘straight’ autobiography. By contrast, Memoirs of Many in One (1986) is a novel in which the elderly female protagonist – a kind of exuberantly cross- dressed White – delights in taunting her prim old friend, the character Patrick White. David Marr’s superb biography of White was published in 1991; shortly before he died, White read the manuscript, and wept, but did not request any changes.

William Yang (b. 1948) is a Sydney- based freelance photographer. Born in North Queensland, he briefly studied architecture at the University of Sydney before embarking on his career in photography. Since the early 1990s he has exhibited widely and staged a number of solo shows. His performances with images, including Sadness (1992) have been acclaimed throughout the world; in 2003 Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre put on a four-part retrospective, The Journeys of William Yang. Yang was part of White’s circle from 1977 onwards, and documented aspects of his life and work in the book Patrick White: The late years (1995). This was one of the first works purchased for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1998
© William Yang

Accession number: 1998.13

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Yang (age 37 in 1980)

Patrick White (age 68 in 1980)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980
Patrick White at Centennial Park, 1979–1980

Listomania

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2013

Sarah Engledow describes the fall-out once Brett Whiteley stuck Patrick White’s list of his loves and hates onto his great portrait of the writer.

Interview with William Yang video: 2 minutes
Interview with William Yang video: 2 minutes
Interview with William Yang video: 2 minutes
Interview with William Yang video: 2 minutes

Patrick White by William Yang

Portrait story

An interview with photographer William Yang who recalls his encounters with the author Patrick White.

Sydney city (Patrick White and Tom Uren, Hiroshima Day demonstration), 1984
Sydney city (Patrick White and Tom Uren, Hiroshima Day demonstration), 1984
Sydney city (Patrick White and Tom Uren, Hiroshima Day demonstration), 1984
Sydney city (Patrick White and Tom Uren, Hiroshima Day demonstration), 1984

The activist A-list

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

Dr Sarah Engledow examines a number of figures in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery who were pioneers or substantial supporters of the seminal Australian environmental campaigns of the early 1970s and 1980s.

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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.