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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.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye with Lily

1993
Jenny Sages

oil on canvas (frame: 216.2 cm x 185.5 cm depth 4.3 cm, support: 213.5 cm x 182.5 cm)

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c. 1910–1996) is one of Australia's most significant artists. An Anmatyerre woman, Kngwarreye was born at Alhalkere, Utopia Station in the Northern Territory. As she grew older she became a leader in Awelye (women's business), experienced in ceremonial body painting. In 1977 she was a founding member of the Utopia Women's Batik Group. Kngwarreye began to paint on canvas late in life, in 1988. During her brief career she produced thousands of canvases depicting the flowers, roots, dust and summer rains of her Country, the translucent colours built up with layered touches of paint to create an illusion of depth and movement. In 1998 a retrospective exhibition of Kngwarreye's work travelled around Australia, and ten years later Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye showed in Japan. With that exhibition, Kngwarreye was recognised as one of the very greatest abstract artists of the twentieth century.

For more than twenty years, Jenny Sages went on annual expeditions to Central Australia. On one of these trips Sages arranged to meet Kngwarreye. The two women sat on the dusty ground talking while Sages sketched, capturing the changing expressions on the Anmatyerre woman's face. Back in her Sydney studio, Sages developed this huge, spare painting, portraying Kngwarreye sitting cross-legged in the quintessential Australian landscape of her Country.

Purchased 1998
© Jenny Sages

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.
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Audio description

3 minutes 57 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Jenny Sages (age 60 in 1993)

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (age 83 in 1993)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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.

Kate Grenville

'Making Stories'

Portrait story

Australian writer Kate Grenville discusses her career and portrait by Jenny Sages.

Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000
Each morning when I wake up I put on my mothers face, 2000

Paths to portraiture

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

The life and art of Australian artist Jenny Sages is on display in the exhibition Paths to Portraiture.

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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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