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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.

Self portrait

2002
Barry Humphries

oil on canvas (frame: 93.0 cm x 77.0 cm, support: 74.5 cm x 58.3 cm)

Barry Humphries AC CBE (b. 1934) is one of the most successful solo theatrical performers of all time. He adopted a professional stage career when he was twenty-one, leaving Melbourne in 1959 to seek success in England. By the early sixties, characters such as Edna Everage and Sandy Stone were burned into the Australian imagination, but it took until 1976 for his solo act to take root in England. Although he soon smashed theatre records there, it was not until 1999 - forty years into Humphries's career - that American audiences took to Edna. Eight months of sold-out Broadway shows and a 55-week nationwide tour ensued. Humphries has two honorary doctorates and has won the J.R. Ackerley Prize; the Golden Rose of Montreux; the TV Personality of the Year Award; the Drama Desk Award; the Outer Critics Circle Award; the National Broadway Award and a Special Tony Award.

Barry Humphries was an enthusiastic artist from childhood, and briefly attended the George Bell School as a teenager. In the early 1950s he discovered the Dada painters and poets, and over the course of the decade he orchestrated several offensive Dada happenings and exhibitions in Melbourne. Although wilfully jejune, Humphries's efforts in this art form had sufficient depth for Robert Hughes to write that he was the 'only Australian who ever really understood the Dada principle of ferocious provocation'. By the beginning of the 1970s he had abandoned his subversive art practice to concentrate on colourful landscapes, depicting both European and Australian views. Several of these, as well as several self-portraits, were exhibited in 2002-3 in the National Portrait Gallery's first biographical exhibition, Rarely Everage.

This work was included in an exhibition of Humphries's paintings in Brisbane in December 2002. Margaret Olley was a long-standing friend of Humphries's. Together they curated an exhibition of their favourite paintings, Favourites, at Sydney's SH Ervin Gallery in 2002.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Margaret Olley Art Trust 2003
© Barry Humphries

Artist and subject

Barry Humphries (age 68 in 2002)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Margaret Olley AC (2 portraits)

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.

No Laughing Matter

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2002

The biographical exhibition of Barry Humphries was the first display of its kind at the National Portrait Gallery.

Portraits for Posterity

Previous exhibition, 2006

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 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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency