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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.

Bob Ellis

1999
David Naseby

oil on canvas (151.5 cm x 106.0 cm)

Bob Ellis (1942–2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director, playwright, speechwriter and critic. His screenwriting credits, Newsfront, Goodbye Paradise, Maybe This Time, Fatty Finn, Top Kid and The Paper Boy all won major prizes, as did his collaborations with Paul Cox, Man of Flowers and My First Wife. For the stage, he collaborated with Michael Boddy on The Legend of King O’Malley. Having run unsuccessfully against Bronwyn Bishop for the seat of Mackellar in 1994, Ellis was answerable for the sensational ‘Abbott and Costello’ defamation case in March 1999. Finding assertions made in a short passage of his 1997 book Goodbye Jerusalem: Night Thoughts of a Labor Outsider false and defamatory, the judge ruled that his publisher pay compensation of $277,500 to Liberal politicians Peter Costello and Tony Abbott and their wives. Later, in the course of criticizing Julia Gillard, Ellis was to praise Abbott’s manners and intellect. His later books include The Capitalism Delusion (2009) and One Hundred Days of Summer (2010). The Ellis Laws, the author’s ten ‘laws’ of life, was published by Penguin in 2014.

Naseby met Ellis through Les Murray, his friend of forty years’ standing, and he comments that seeing the two men together was ‘awe-inspiring’. This painting was done at the time of the publication of Goodbye Jerusalem. Naseby intended to refer to the ‘Abbott and Costello’ affair in the work but was dissuaded by friends from doing so. He writes that Ellis ‘loves a stoush’ and that he painted Ellis in a t-shirt because it ‘made him look like the scrapper he is’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 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 62 in 1999)

Bob Ellis (age 57 in 1999)

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

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.

Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis

Tribute

Bob Ellis

Magazine article, 2016

Bob Ellis (1942–2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director, playwright, speechwriter and critic.

Miranda Otto
Miranda Otto
Miranda Otto
Miranda Otto

Eye to eye

Previous exhibition, 2019

Eye to Eye is a summer Portrait Gallery Collection remix arranged by degree of eye contact – from turned away with eyes closed all the way through to right-back-at-you – as we explore artists’ and subjects’ choices around the direction of the gaze.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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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