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Sir Gustav Nossal
, 1999

by Peter Churcher

oil on canvas

Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE (b. 1931) is an immunologist and medical scientist. Born in Austria, he emigrated with his family to Sydney in 1939. After studying in Sydney and Melbourne, he began his medical career in 1955. Ten years later he became director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Under his leadership until 1996 the Institute broadened its research activities to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, malaria and organ transplants. During much of this period Nossal was also Professor of Medical Biology at the University of Melbourne, and from 1994 to 1998 he was Chairman of the Australian Academy of Science. Since 1990 he has been chairman of the group of experts advising the World Health Organisation on its global programme of vaccines and immunisation. Nossal has been honoured with a great number of international awards and was Australian of the Year in 2000.

Peter Churcher's first qualifications were in music, not art. Travelling through Europe after gaining his Licentiate for Piano Performance from Trinity College, London, he visited a great many galleries and was persuaded to return to his original preoccupation, painting. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) in 1991, he held his first solo exhibition in 1994. Churcher was appointed Australia's Official War Artist in 2002. His paintings and drawings of the Australian military's engagement in the Coalition against Terrorism are on show at the Australian War Memorial.

In the background of this portrait Churcher refers to Nossal's work on an immunology program which aims to eliminate polio from the world. The red areas on the map indicate countries where the disease still occurs.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Karen McLeod Adair and Anthony Adair 1999
Accession number: 1999.18