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Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm
, 1961

by William Dargie

oil on canvas (frame: 133.5 cm x 108.8 cm depth 7.8 cm, support: 114.0 cm x 89.0 cm)

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith MC AFC (1897–1935) and Captain Charles Ulm (1898-1934), aviators, together founded Australian National Airways in 1930. During World War I, Kingsford Smith had served on the ground in Gallipoli, Egypt and France before transferring to the Australian Flying Corps and later the Royal Flying Corps, as a member of which he was awarded the Military Cross. He worked in England, America and Australia as a stunt flyer and joy- flight pilot before forming his own aviation company in 1924. Charles Ulm, who at the age of sixteen had been amongst the first troops to land at Gallipoli, and who had later served on the Western Front, had returned to Sydney with a vision of establishing successful commercial airlines. He became Kingsford Smith’s business partner in 1927. That year they circumnavigated Australia in less than half the previous record time. In 1928, he and Kingsford Smith co-piloted the plane later known as Southern Cross across the Pacific from California to Brisbane. Later that year the pair made the first trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch. Ulm made several more record-breaking flights, both with Kingsford Smith in Southern Cross, and in command of his own aircraft Faith in Australia. In 1934, Ulm went down in the sea between California and Hawaii in his Airspeed Envoy Stella Australis. His body was never found. Kingsford Smith had become world-famous by 1930, and in 1932 he was knighted for services to aviation, but in business he was almost back to where he started, selling joyflights at ten shillings a ride and establishing an ill-fated flying school. Nonetheless, his marvellous achievements continued until he, too, disappeared, probably near the coast of Burma, on an attempt at the Britain-Australia record.

One of seventeen portraits by Sir William Dargie acquired by 2013, the painting of the aviation heroes is also one of a mere handful of posthumous portraits in the Collection. In 2001 the Sydney Airports Corporation made a gift of the painting to the National Portrait Gallery along with two busts of Kingsford Smith and Ulm by Enid Fleming.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Sydney Airports Corporation 2001
Accession number: 2001.186