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Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain Charles Ulm

1961
Sir William Dargie CBE

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
© Roger Dargie and Faye Dargie

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.
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2 minutes 54 seconds
Show transcript

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Donated by

Sydney Airports Corporation (3 portraits)

Related information

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Sir William Dargie CBE

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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.

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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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