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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Portrait of Marjorie Cotton

1969
Jean Isherwood OAM

oil on canvas (frame: 118.0 cm x 93.5 cm, support: 102.0 cm x 75.5 cm)

Marjorie Cotton Isherwood (1913–2003) was the first professionally qualified children's librarian in New South Wales and many of her initiatives continue today. At that time there were very few facilities designed for children in libraries. Having spent ten years as a teacher in South Australia, Cotton worked at Ku-ring-gai Municipal Library, scouring second-hand bookshops to build the collection, introducing weekly story time, liaising with schools, and stocking titles for children in languages other than English. She set up a special Central Children's Library in Newcastle, and while based in Randwick from 1953 to 1960 set up a Bookmobile that operated from a grandstand at Kensington Oval. Cotton was the first President of the Children's Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia. The Marjorie Cotton Award for Children's Librarianship was established in the late 1980s to recognise contributions to public librarianship.

Artist Jean Isherwood was the cousin of Marjorie Cotton's husband, Sid Isherwood; Jean painted both him and Marjorie. This portrait may have been painted at Woollahra Library, where Cotton worked from 1959 to 1968. As she recalled: 'The beautiful setting, in a harbourside garden, created a friendly intimacy of readers and staff, parents and children … doors were never closed until the children’s needs were satisfied.'

Gift of Marjorie Cotton Isherwood 2002

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

Jean Isherwood OAM (age 58 in 1969)

Marjorie Cotton Isherwood (age 56 in 1969)

Subject professions

Education and research

Donated by

Marjorie Cotton Isherwood (1 portrait)

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency