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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.

Robert Hughes

late 1970s
Louis Kahan

pen and ink on paper (sheet: 54.3 cm x 37.9 cm)

Robert Hughes AO (1938-2012), historian and critic, was one of one Australia’s best-known public intellectuals. Like many of the figures who floated around the Sydney ‘Push’ in the late 1950s, he began his career contributing poems, cartoons, criticism and articles to Honi Soit, the Observer and Nation. He began working for Time magazine in 1970, the year his The Art of Australia was published, and henceforth lived in the USA; he was the senior art critic for Time until 2001 and continued to contribute review articles to that publication for some years. His books include The Shock of the New (1980, also a television series), The Fatal Shore (1987), Nothing if Not Critical (1990), Barcelona (1992), American Visions (1997, also a television series) and A Jerk on One End (1999), the title of which refers to his love of fishing. In 1999, just after beginning to film his television series on Australia Beyond the Fatal Shore, Hughes suffered a terrible car accident on the coast of WA. The series was cobbled together during his agonising convalescence, and Hughes had little control over the final cut, but its negative reception led to his remark that for all he cared, they could ‘tow Australia out to sea and sink it’. Named the London Sunday Times Writer of the Year in 2000, he proceeded to write Goya (2003) and a superb autobiography, Things I Didn’t Know (2006).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1998
© Louis Kahan/Copyright Agency, 2021

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

Louis Kahan (age 65 in 1970)

Robert Hughes AO (age 32 in 1970)

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.

Self portrait
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A guy from Paris

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2018

Sarah Engledow on a foundational gallery figure who was quick on the draw.

Robert Hughes - Nothing if not critical
Robert Hughes - Nothing if not critical
Robert Hughes - Nothing if not critical
Robert Hughes - Nothing if not critical

Heart of Darkness

Magazine article by Magda Keaney, 2002

Magda Keaney talks with Bill Leak about his bold new portrait of Robert Hughes in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

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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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