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Sir Arthur Coles
, c. 1971

by William Dargie

oil on canvas

The Coles retail dynasty began when the first George Coles arrived in Victoria in the 1850s and established a butcher’s shop. His son, also named George, bought it and went on to open a number of country stores. The second George had eleven children with his first wife, Elizabeth, including a third George (1885-1977), Arthur (1892-1982), Kenneth (1896-1985) (known as Frank until 1957) and Edgar (1899-1981). After Elizabeth died, George married again, and had one more child, Norman (1907-1989). The third George Coles bought and sold various businesses from his father before opening his first store in Collingwood in 1914. After the war he was back in business, opening his first ‘nothing over 2/6-’ store in Collingwood in 1919. The company was incorporated in 1921 and went public as GJ Coles and Coy Ltd in 1927, when there were eight stores. Over the course of the twentieth century, as the firm went on to acquire or develop many other retail chains including Coles New World supermarkets, K-mart, Target, Katies, Bi-Lo, Vintage Cellars and Red Rooster, George Coles’s brothers Arthur, Kenneth, Edgar and Norman worked up through the company to become directors. All the brothers were involved to a greater or lesser degree in philanthropy and corporate affairs and served on a variety of boards. Arthur Coles was Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1938 to 1940 and was Chairman of the Rationing Commission and the War Damage Commission between 1942 and 1950. He was knighted in 1960.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Coles Myer Ltd 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2002.49