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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.

Sir Zelman Cowen

2000
Wes Walters

oil on canvas (frame: 135.0 cm x 89.0 cm, support: 122.0 cm x 76.3 cm)

The Rt Hon Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC DCL (1919-2011), academic, writer and former Governor-General, was educated at Scotch College and the University of Melbourne before serving in the navy in World War 2. After the war, he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. From 1951 to 1966 he was dean of the law faculty at the University of Melbourne; during this period he worked often in American universities, advised the British government on constitutional issues and wrote the biography of Sir Isaac Isaacs, Australian-born Jewish governor-general. In 1970 he became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland. Seven years later, at the invitation of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, he succeeded Sir John Kerr as Governor-General; it has often been observed that he did much to restore the status of the vice-regal post. Returning to Oxford University in the 1980s, he became Provost of Oriel College and later Pro-Vice Chancellor. He published widely on aspects of law but also attempted to enhance public comprehension of perplexing constitutional issues, particularly the question of an Australian republic. Cowen's autobiography, A Public Life, was published in 2006.

Wes Walters (1928-2014) enjoyed a successful career as a commercial artist before coming to specialise in portraiture. When he won the Archibald Prize in 1979 for a painting of Phillip Adams, his subject predicted correctly that the 'arties' would be furious at the judges' choice, because of Walters's background in commercial art.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Marc Besen AO and Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE 2000
© Estate of Wes Walters

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

Wes Walters (age 72 in 2000)

Rt Hon Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC DCL (age 81 in 2000)

Donated by

Joseph Brown AO OBE (4 portraits)

Marc Bessen AO (1 portrait)

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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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