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Clive James, 1999

Polly Borland

type C photograph (image: 48.8 cm x 38.6 cm)

Clive James AO CBE (1939–2019), writer, broadcaster and critic, grew up in Sydney, attending Hurstville Opportunity School, Sydney Tech. High School and the University of Sydney before leaving Australia for Cambridge. Working toward his MA in literature, he became president of the Footlights revue team that included Germaine Greer and Eric Idle. He published the first of many non-fiction works in 1974. His subsequent books included three best-selling volumes of autobiography, four novels, and many collections of travel essays, journalism and literary criticism. After a decade as television critic for The Observer, throughout the 1980s he played the genial host of television talk shows such as Saturday Night Clive, and wrote and presented BBC and ITV specials documenting absurdities of the decade. James lived in England for most of his adult life, although in contrast to other expatriates of his generation, he escaped punishment for it in the Australian press. His deep and skilful poems, which appeared in such cerebral publications as the New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman, were collected in The Book of my Enemy (2003), Opal Sunset (2007), Angels over Elsinore (2008) and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower (2012). In 2013, critically ill with leukaemia and emphysema, he saw the publication of his masterful translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2001

Accession number: 2001.53

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Polly Borland (age 40 in 1999)

Clive James AM (age 60 in 1999)

Subject professions

Media and communications


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