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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.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003)

Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.5 cm)

Betty Cuthbert AM MBE (1938-2017), sprinter, was Australia’s leading gold-medal winning track and field athlete. In 1956 she set a women’s world record for the 200 metres at Moore Park, beating the record set by her compatriot Marjorie Jackson at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Cuthbert had tickets to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games as a spectator, but she attended as a competitor, earning the nickname the ‘Golden Girl’ from the Melbourne Argus when she won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. The 1958 Commonwealth Games, the 1960 Olympics and the 1962 Commonwealth Games went badly for her, but at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 she won the 400m, making her only the second woman to have won four different track races. In 1969 she developed multiple sclerosis, and was a vigorous fundraiser for research into the disease. In 1998, Cuthbert was named a Living National Treasure; the Athletic Stadium at Homebush is named in her honour.

Ern McQuillan (b. 1926) completed a photography cadetship at the Daily Mirror in the 1940s and after World War II worked for newspapers and magazines such as the Women’s Weekly, the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph and the Bulletin. This photograph is one of several taken durion a session at Cuthbert’s family home in Ermington, also the location of a plant nursery run by her father. McQuillan recalled that Cuthbert was a ‘most cooperative’ subject, who was happy to don her running gear for some action shots having already been photographed ‘watering the plants and doing bits and pieces’ for her father.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2003

Accession number: 2003.111

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan (age 29 in 1955)

Betty Cuthbert AM MBE (age 17 in 1955)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 Albert Tucker

Depth of Field

Portrait Photography from the Collection

Previous exhibition, 2004

Over the last five years the National Portrait Gallery has developed a collection of portrait photographs that reflects both the strength and diversity of Australian achievement as well as the talents of our photographers.

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The National Portrait 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.