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Portrait of Ruth Cracknell as the Sibyl
, 1995

by Rosemary Valadon

oil on canvas

Ruth Cracknell AM (1925-2002) was grounded in theatrical practice by her mother and seven unmarried aunts, and joined an amateur drama club at seventeen. She left for England in 1952, where she worked in radio drama with the BBC. Returning to Australia in 1954 she joined the Phillip Street Theatre, in 1965 heading the cast of A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down. Meanwhile, her film career began with a role in Smiley Gets a Gun (1958). Over the ensuing years she appeared in a great number of seminal theatre, television, and radio productions, winning major awards for roles in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1977) and Mother and Son (1993). Cracknell was Patron of the Sydney Theatre Company and an influential spokesperson for older Australian women. In 2000 she published Journey From Venice, a thoughtful and affecting account of the death of her husband and her own 'journey' through grief.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2000
Accession number: 2000.3