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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Margaret Anderson

1942
Napier Waller CMG OBE

pastel on paper (45.7 cm x 36.2 cm)

Margaret Anderson GM (1915–1995) served with the Australian Army Nursing Service during the Second World War in Singapore. On 11 February 1942, Anderson was evacuated to Australia and boarded an old cargo ship that had hastily been refitted as a hospital ship, Empire Star. Designed to accommodate 20 passengers, the ship held over 2100 people, including Australian, British and Indian nurses as well as British troops and civilian women and children. A day into the trip, the ship was attacked by a Japanese air raid. Accounts differ, but it is estimated that 17 men were killed and 32 were injured. Leaving the safety of the hold and under heavy fire, Anderson sheltered soldiers with her own body and attended to the wounded. For her bravery she was awarded the George Medal. Despite her ordeal, she joined the hospital ship Wanganella in January 1943 and continued to serve for the rest of the war.

In this drawn pastel portrait Napier Waller has presented Anderson in her impeccable nurse's uniform. She looks out beyond the viewer, staring into the distance with a steady and determined gaze. This portrait was one of a series published in The Australasian newspaper, which noted that Anderson 'symbolises the steadfast, efficient spirit of a glorious branch of the services'.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 1999
© Estate of Napier Waller

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

Napier Waller CMG OBE (age 49 in 1942)

Margaret Anderson GM (age 27 in 1942)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Military

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.

Margaret Anderson
Margaret Anderson
Margaret Anderson
Margaret Anderson

The line of fire

Magazine article by Michelle Fracaro, 2005

Michelle Fracaro examines the life of World War II nurse Margaret Anderson, whose portrait by Napier Waller is in the NPG collection.

Jessie Street
Jessie Street
Jessie Street
Jessie Street

First Ladies

Significant Australian Women 1913–2013

Previous exhibition, 2013

First Ladies profiles women who have achieved noteworthy firsts over the past 100 years.

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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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