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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.

Study for portrait of Les Murray

1995
David Naseby

charcoal on paper (34.5 cm x 26.2 cm)

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 (1937-2022) 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

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

David Naseby (age 58 in 1995)

Les Murray AO (age 57 in 1995)

Donated by

David Naseby (4 portraits)

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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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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