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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.

Ada Bird Petyarre, 1990

Anne Zahalka

direct positive colour photograph (sheet: 70.2 cm x 70.2 cm)

Ada Bird Petyarre (c. 1930–2009), painter and printmaker, was an Anmatyerre woman from the Northern Territory, and one of seven sisters who all became notable artists. She was born on the pastoral lease Utopia, located in the Sandover region north-east of Alice Springs, and did domestic work on the station as a young woman. As was so for her kinswoman, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Petyarre’s art practice commenced in the late 1970s when the Utopia women were introduced to batik and other dying and textile painting techniques. She was one of the founding members of the Utopia Batik Group, whose work became an important industry for the Anmatyerre following the return of Utopia to its traditional owners in 1978. A collection of 88 silk batiks was acquired by the Holmes à Court Collection in 1988 and was the subject of the book Utopia: A Picture Story, published the same year. Petyarre made her first painting on canvas in 1988 and held the first of her several solo exhibitions at Utopia Art, Sydney, in 1990. Subsequently, her paintings were included in major group shows in Australia and overseas, and were acquired for the collections of public institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2002
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Anne Zahalka/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2003.13.2

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Anne Zahalka (age 33 in 1990)

Ada Bird Petyarre (age 60 in 1990)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Leo Christie (10 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.

The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987
The cook (Michael Schmidt/architect), 1987

Hall of mirrors

Magazine article by Naomi Cass, 2007

Naomi Cass, Director of the Centre of Contemporary Photography, in conversation with Anne Zahalka.

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.

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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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.