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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.

Portrait of Marjorie Cotton, 1969

Jean Isherwood

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

Marjorie Cotton (Isherwood) (1913-2003), children's librarian, became the first person in NSW to graduate from a children's librarianship course in 1949. At that time there were very few facilities designed for children in libraries. Having spent ten years as a teacher in South Australia, she 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, which were a precious resource for families who had escaped from Europe during the war. She set up a special Central Children's Library in Newcastle, and while based in Randwick from 1953 to 1960 she set up a 'Bookmobile' that operated from a grandstand at Kensington Oval and serviced the City of Sydney to Botany Bay. The Marjorie Cotton Award for Children's Librarianship was established in the late 1980s in recognition of her practical and administrative contributions to public librarianship.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Marjorie Cotton Isherwood 2002

Accession number: 2002.56

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Jean Isherwood (age 58 in 1969)

Marjorie Cotton Isherwood (age 56 in 1969)

Subject professions

Education and research

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.

Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell

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.

Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan
Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan
Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan
Jessie Street, 1929 Jerrold Nathan

First Ladies

Significant Australian Women 1913–2013

Previous exhibition, 2013

First Ladies profiles women who have achieved noteworthy firsts over the past 100 years.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

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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.