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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.

Joan Croll, 1976

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
Gift of Frank Croll and Dr Joan Croll AO 2001
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Helen Brack

Accession number: 2001.183

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Brack (age 56 in 1976)

Joan Croll AO (age 48 in 1976)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

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.

Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack

Bonfire of the vanities

Magazine article by Stuart Purves, 2016

Australian Galleries Director Stuart Purves tells the story of two portraits by John Brack.

Interview with Joan Croll video: 2 minutes
Interview with Joan Croll video: 2 minutes
Interview with Joan Croll video: 2 minutes
Interview with Joan Croll video: 2 minutes

Joan Croll

Portrait story

An interview with the indomitable Joan Croll, subject of John Brack's portrait.

Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the early life and career of John Brack.

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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.