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Joan Croll
, 1976

by John Brack

oil on canvas (frame: 165.5 cm x 119.5 cm, support: 152.5 cm x 106.5 cm)

Joan Croll AO (b. 1928), formerly a breast physician and practising radiologist, is a conservation activist and vigorous writer of letters-to-the-editor. Born in Sydney, she studied medicine at the University of Sydney but did not practise until the age of forty- seven, having been a full-time mother for thirteen years (a period of her life that she determinedly listed in her entry in Who’s Who). From 1975 until her retirement in 1997 she was a persistent and effective worker in the field of breast cancer, promoting the introduction and acceptance of breast ultrasound and mammography. In the early 1970s, Croll’s fight alongside thirteen other women known as the ‘Battlers for Kelly’s Bush’ to stymie a housing development on Sydney bushland led to the world’s first Green Ban and the birth of urban environmentalism.

John Brack was the art master at Melbourne Grammar School for ten years before becoming the Head of the National Gallery Art School in 1962, retiring six years later when he was finally confident that he could make a living as a full-time artist. Although he never regarded himself as a portraitist, he produced a number of austere, elegant portraits, exhibited together for the first time at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Portraits by John Brack in 2007. His painting of Joan Croll was the first portrait he completed on commission; he made few more works to order, preferring to focus on family and friends who would not be disconcerted by his disinclination to flatter them.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Frank and Joan Croll 2001
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2001.183