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Hon Tom Hughes QC
, 2001

by Jiawei Shen

oil on canvas (frame: 172.0 cm x 143.5 cm depth 5.0 cm)

Hon Thomas Hughes AO QC (b. 1923), lawyer and former politician, was born in Sydney and educated at Riverview before serving in the RAAF during World War 2. He studied law at the University of Sydney and was called to the NSW bar in 1949. Between 1963 and 1972 he served as Liberal member for Parkes and then Berowra. In 1969 he became Commonwealth Attorney General, a position he held until 1971. A photograph of Hughes brandishing a cricket bat at anti-Vietnam demonstrators outside his home became one of the telling images of the turbulent period, after which he became well known as a stylish man-about-Sydney. A specialist in defamation cases, from the 1950s until 1993 he appeared regularly on behalf of Australian Consolidated Press, but throughout his career he has upheld the impartial tradition of the Bar by appearing on behalf of a wide variety of clients. In 1985 he led the much-publicised challenge to charges laid against Labor High Court judge Lionel Murphy; he appeared for footballer Andrew Ettinghausen against HQ magazine; in recent years he has appeared both for and against the Fairfax organisation. Although he devotes much of his time to farming in the Goulburn district, he still practises in Sydney. Until he retired in late 2013, he was the oldest serving member of the NSW Bar.

Shen Jiawei (b. 1948) was born in China, where he grew up during the Cultural Revolution and began to gain recognition as an artist in the mid-1970s. Largely self taught at first, when he was able to undertake formal art training in Beijing he was significantly influenced by his teacher Shangyi, China's most famous portraitist. He came to specialise in history paintings, and saw his works hung in top public collections in Beijing before moving to Australia in 1989. Here he has continued to paint full-time; one of his works was hung in the National Gallery's Federation exhibition in 2000, and his portrait of Art Gallery of New South Wales Director Edmund Capon was the People's Choice in the Salon des Refusés of the 2003 Archibald Prize. Shen enjoyed working with Hughes. He had read about him, and writes that he came to 'love him, both as a personality and as a painting subject'. In turn, while he worked, Hughes asked the artist many questions about his own life. This portrait was purchased for the National Portrait Gallery by Hughes's daughter, former Lord Mayor of Sydney Lucy Turnbull, and his son-in-law and fellow Republican, Malcolm Turnbull.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Commissioned with funds provided by Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull 2003
Accession number: 2003.153