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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.

Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916

Thomson Studios

gelatin silver photograph on paper (mount: 33.9 cm x 27.5 cm, image: 22.9 cm x 14.0 cm)

Sir Douglas Mawson OBE FRS (1882–1958) was a geologist and Antarctic explorer. Born in Yorkshire, Mawson was two years old when his family emigrated to Australia and eventually settled in the inner Sydney suburb of Glebe. He was admitted to Sydney University at age sixteen, completing studies in mining engineering and geology there before taking up a position as lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the University of Adelaide. Mawson made the first of his three journeys to Antarctica as physicist to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, conducted between 1907 and 1909. On that trip and with his mentor, geologist TW Edgeworth David, Mawson completed a dangerous 122-day sled journey and recorded observations at the South Magnetic Pole. Two years later, Mawson led his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911–14. Notable for its numerous scientific and geographical achievements, the AAE is equally legendary for Mawson’s survival during another epic sled journey to the South Pole that claimed the lives of his two companions. Mawson returned from the expedition a hero and was knighted. After serving with the British Ministry of Munitions and the Russian Military Commission during World War I, Mawson returned to Adelaide University, where he was Professor of Geology and Mineralogy for the remainder of his life. He revisited Antarctica as leader of the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) of 1929–30 and 1930–31, a venture that later resulted in Australian control of almost six million square kilometres of the continent. In 1947, Mawson completed writing and editing the twenty-two volumes of reports on the scientific findings of the AAE. He retired from the University of Adelaide – the geology building of which bears his name – in 1952. He died six years later, survived by his wife and two daughters, and was honoured with a State funeral in Adelaide. Described by Edgeworth David as a man of ‘infinite resource, splendid physique and astonishing indifference to frost’, Mawson is counted among the twentieth century’s most eminent explorers.

This photograph of Douglas Mawson in his early thirties was taken at a commercial photography studio in London during World War I. It was donated to the National Portrait Gallery by the subject’s daughter in 2000.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Mrs J.Q. McEwin 2000

Accession number: 2003.158

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thomson Studios

Sir Douglas Mawson Kt OBE FRS (age 34 in 1916)

Related portraits

1. Douglas Mawson, 1933. All Henry James Haley.

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.

Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916 Thomson Studios
Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916 Thomson Studios
Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916 Thomson Studios
Sir Douglas Mawson, c. 1916 Thomson Studios

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Self portrait, c. 1911 Frank Hurley
Self portrait, c. 1911 Frank Hurley
Self portrait, c. 1911 Frank Hurley
Self portrait, c. 1911 Frank Hurley

Of ice and men

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Frank Hurley's celebrated images document the heroism and minutiae of Australian exploration in Antarctica.

Elle Macpherson, 2000 Polly Borland
Elle Macpherson, 2000 Polly Borland
Elle Macpherson, 2000 Polly Borland
Elle Macpherson, 2000 Polly Borland

Australian Visit

Previous exhibition, 2006

The exhibition will include works of art from the NPG Canberra's permanent collection with some inward loans and aims to highlight the achievements of notable Australians.

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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.