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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.

Study for portrait of Les Murray, 1995

David Naseby

charcoal on paper

Leslie Allan (Les) Murray AO (1938-2019) was one of the great poets writing in English of his generation. An observer of the natural world and (like Wordsworth) of the 'egotistical sublime', he won many literary awards, including the prestigious Petrarch Prize in Germany, the TS Eliot Award in Britain, and the Queen's Medal for Poetry. He published some thirty books, dedicated to 'the glory of God' and linked by their engagement with the values of what he called the 'real Australia' - the rural heartland and the bush. In 1998 the Federal Government commissioned Murray to write a new preamble to the Constitution, but the government rejected much of the draft and he later dissociated himself from the project.

David Naseby worked for a time in advertising, and one of his first portrait commissions was of Belinda Green for John Singleton. He was a finalist in the Archibald Prizes of 1995, 1998 and 1999 for his portraits of Les Murray (twice) and Bob Ellis. Segments of the documentary film Bastards From the Bush, featuring Murray and Ellis, were filmed in Naseby's studio while he painted the second portrait of Murray. To make this portrait David Naseby and his wife travelled to Murray's home property in Bunyah and stayed there for the weekend. The artist was struck by Murray's air of strange simplicity. He has shown the poet indulging in his habit of sucking on a finger, and with his coffee cup tilting - 'like my life', Murray observed.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of David Naseby 2001
© David Naseby

Accession number: 2001.16

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

David Naseby (age 58 in 1995)

Les Murray AO (age 57 in 1995)

Donated by

David Naseby (4 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.

Bob Ellis, 1999 David Naseby
Bob Ellis, 1999 David Naseby
Bob Ellis, 1999 David Naseby
Bob Ellis, 1999 David Naseby

Tribute

Bob Ellis

Magazine article, 2016

Bob Ellis (1942–2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director, playwright, speechwriter and critic.

Les Murray, 1995 David Naseby
Les Murray, 1995 David Naseby
Les Murray, 1995 David Naseby
Les Murray, 1995 David Naseby

Poets' Portraits

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2005

The Portrait Gallery's paintings of two poets, Les Murray and Peter Porter, demonstrate two very different artists' responses to the challenge of representing more than usually sensitive and imaginative men.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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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.