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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 family, c. 1955

Charles Blackman

oil on board (frame: 104.5 cm x 142.0 cm, support: 91.0 cm x 122.0 cm)

Judith Wright (1915-2000) was a poet, literary critic, editor, and fiction writer, as well as an active and influential conservationist and Aboriginal rights advocate. Her poems accordingly reflect 'the love of the land we have invaded and the guilt of the invasion'. Wright met and married the journalist, playwright and bushman Jack McKinney in the 1940s, and the couple became good friends with Charles and Barbara Blackman. Meredith McKinney (b. 1950) was to become a scholar of Japanese and a literary translator. Her collaborative translations of her mother's works have been published in Australia and Japan. This work recalls a day when the Blackman and Wright/ McKinney families, both to assume great cultural significance to Australia, happily picnicked at Cedar Creek near Tamborine in the winter of 1955. It was in private collections for more than forty years before Barbara Blackman heard it was for sale through a Melbourne gallery. She purchased the painting of her 'good dear beloved long friend' especially for the National Portrait Gallery, which she has long championed. In March 2000 the two women were present at a function in the gallery to celebrate the acquisition of the work and Wright's 85th birthday. Wright died just a few weeks later.

Charles Blackman OBE (1928-2018), artist, studied at East Sydney Technical College before moving to Melbourne, where he came to the attention of art patron John Reid. With Reid's support, he began to produce his signature series of images, incorporating schoolgirls with flowers and Alice in Wonderland figures and motifs. He was a signatory to the Antipodean Manifesto (loosely, a defence of figuration against abstraction) in the early 1950s. After he won the Helena Rubenstein Scholarship in 1960, his work was shown in the important Whitechapel and Tate exhibitions in London in 1961-1962. Exhibiting prolifically throughout his career, over the 1970s he produced softer images of cats and gardens. In the early 1990s, a period during which he revisited themes of his early work, a Blackman retrospective show toured nationally. Renowned especially for his drawing, Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and all state galleries.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Barbara Blackman 2000
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Charles Blackman/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2000.20

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Charles Blackman (age 27 in 1955)

Judith Wright (age 40 in 1955)

Donated by

Barbara Blackman AO (3 portraits)

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.

Big bouquet of Blackmans

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2013

Dr. Sarah Engledow explores the context surrounding Charles Blackman's portrait of Judith Wright, Jack McKinney and their daughter Meredith.

Interview with Meredith McKinney video: 2 minutes
Interview with Meredith McKinney video: 2 minutes
Interview with Meredith McKinney video: 2 minutes
Interview with Meredith McKinney video: 2 minutes

The Family

by Charles Blackman

Portrait story

Meredith McKinney, subject of Charles Blackman's 'The Family', recounts memories from her childhood and the creation of the portrait.

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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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Phone +61 2 6102 7000
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ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.