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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.

Great stylists: Caruso, Melba, Pavarotti, Bonynge and Sutherland, 1983

Arthur Horner

pencil on paper (frame: 40.0 cm x 50.0 cm, image: 32.0 cm x 42.0 cm)

Dame Joan Sutherland (1926–2010) was one of the world’s greatest operatic divas. After winning the Mobil Song Contest in 1950, Sutherland left Australia to study at the Royal College of Music in London, making her debut at Covent Garden in 1952 in The Magic Flute. Within a few weeks she was appearing there in Norma, with Maria Callas in the title role.

In London a fellow expatriate, conductor Richard Bonynge, became her mentor and later her husband. He encouraged her to abandon the heavier vocal roles she favoured and to become a coloratura soprano; the transformation was key to her success. Sutherland’s 1959 performance in Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden launched an international career that spanned nearly 40 years, during which her distinctive voice, immense vocal range and wide repertoire earned her the title ‘La Stupenda’. Luciano Pavarotti described her voice as ‘certainly the greatest voice this century’.

She was Australian of the Year in 1961, the second year the title was awarded. Thirty years later she received the Order of Merit, one of a mere handful of Australians – and the only Australian woman – to be accorded that honour. In 1974, Sutherland and Bonynge returned to Australia, and over the next decade they lent their star power to the Australian Opera. In the years following, she was designated a National Living Treasure. Sutherland lived in Switzerland for many years. When she died, it had been more than 20 years since the night of her last performance, at Covent Garden. She was the first Australian to have been given a memorial service at Westminster Abbey since that of Sir Robert Menzies in 1978.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Eric Harding and Athol Hawke 2002

Accession number: 2002.57

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Arthur Horner (age 57 in 1983)

Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE (age 57 in 1983)

Dame Nellie Melba GBE

Richard Bonynge AO CBE (age 53 in 1983)

Luciano Pavarotti (age 48 in 1983)

Enrico Caruso

Subject professions

Performing arts

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.

Charles Haddon Chambers, 1921 Ralph Barton
Charles Haddon Chambers, 1921 Ralph Barton
Charles Haddon Chambers, 1921 Ralph Barton
Charles Haddon Chambers, 1921 Ralph Barton

Suave

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Charles Haddon Chambers the Australian-born playboy playwright settled permanently in London in 1880 but never lost his Australian stance when satirising the English.

Portrait sketch of Nellie Melba, 1902 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait sketch of Nellie Melba, 1902 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait sketch of Nellie Melba, 1902 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait sketch of Nellie Melba, 1902 Hugh Ramsay

Doodles of the Diva

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Three tiny sketches of Dame Nellie Melba in the NPG collection were created by the artist who was to go on to paint the most imposing representation of the singer: Rupert Bunny.

Florence Austral, c. 1930 Howard Barron
Florence Austral, c. 1930 Howard Barron
Florence Austral, c. 1930 Howard Barron
Florence Austral, c. 1930 Howard Barron

Pretty in peach

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2008
It's remarkable that the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond has produced two of Australia's most successful opera singers. Three decades apart, but within a short distance of each other, both Helen Porter Mitchell and Florence Wilson were born.
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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.