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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.

Sir George Coles

1935
W B McInnes

oil on canvas (frame: 115.5 cm x 98 cm, support: 101.0 cm x 83.0 cm)

Sir George Coles CBE (1885–1977) was the founder of the retail concern GJ Coles and Coy. The Coles retail dynasty began when the first George Coles arrived in Victoria in the 1850s and established a butchery. His son, George, bought it and went on to open a number of country stores. In turn, his son – the George Coles in this portrait – bought and sold various businesses from his father before opening his first store in 1914. After World War 1 he opened his first ‘nothing over 2/6-’ store in Collingwood. Over the course of the twentieth century, as the firm went on to acquire many other retail chains, George Coles and four of his brothers worked up through the company to become directors. A substantial personal philanthropist, Coles was at various times a President of the Rotary Club and Warden of St John’s Anglican Church, Toorak; he was for 14 years Foundation President of the Institute of Public Affairs and for 22 years a Director of the National Australasia Bank. GJ Coles and Coy merged with the Myer company in late 1985; the Coles Group was acquired by Wesfarmers in 2007.

William Beckwith (Bill) McInnes (1889–1939) trained at the National Gallery of Victoria School and later undertook study tours of Europe and the UK. He taught drawing at the NGV School from 1917 to 1934 and was its head from 1934 to 1939, during which he briefly acted as director of the NGV. Beginning in 1921, McInnes won five of the first six Archibald Prizes, writing in defence of his conservative work that ‘in Australia we have not been bitten by Cubism or Futurism or other isms … and I am glad of it.’ He was to win the prize twice more, in 1930 and 1936.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Coles Myer Ltd 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

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

W B McInnes (age 46 in 1935)

Sir George Coles KT CBE (age 50 in 1935)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Donated by

Coles Myer Ltd (6 portraits)

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Drawn from some of the many donations made to the Gallery's collection, the exhibition Portraits for Posterity pays homage both to the remarkable (and varied) group of Australians who are portrayed in the portraits and the generosity of the many donors who have presented them to the Gallery.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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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 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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