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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.

The sitter (Drusilla Modjeska)

2001
Jo Bertini

oil on canvas (121.5 cm x 111.6 cm)

Drusilla Modjeska (b.1946) writer, feminist and academic, was born in England and moved to Australia in 1971 after several years in Papua New Guinea. Her doctoral thesis, on Australian women writers of the interwar years, informed her published works in the 1980s. Poppy, a biography of her mother with a strong autobiographical undercurrent, was published in 1990; The Orchard in 1995. Both won NSW Premier’s Awards for nonfiction, and her double biography of the Australian painters Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington Smith, Stravinsky’s Lunch, published in 1999, won a third. Recipient of the gold medal of the Australian Literature Society, Modjeska has taught at the University of Technology, Sydney, and held various fellowships at the University of Sydney. In 2012 her first work of fiction, The Mountain, drew on her period of residence in, and recent regular travels to, Papua New Guinea.

On the night of the opening of the Portia Geach Prize of 2001, Modjeska was distressed to see that Bertini had not painted the string of her mother’s pearls that she habitually wore. Bertini added the pearls with a stick of charcoal then and there. Later, she gained access to the closed SH Ervin gallery and painted them properly.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2002
© Jo Bertini

Artist and subject

Jo Bertini (age 37 in 2001)

Drusilla Modjeska (age 55 in 2001)

Subject professions

Education and research

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.

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.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency