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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.

Clem Seale and Robert Emerson Curtis

c. 1944
Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph on paper (34.7 cm x 30.2 cm)

Robert Emerson Curtis (1899-1996), illustrator and painter, arrived in Sydney from England in 1924. During World War 2 he worked as a Camouflage Officer attached to the RAAF in Cairns and New Guinea before being appointed an Official War Artist in 1945. The Australian War Memorial holds more than 200 of his works, as well as more photographs of Curtis by Dupain. In the postwar years Curtis shared Dupain's interest in the construction of the Opera House; his A Vision Takes Form - Sydney Opera House was published in 1967. Clem Seale (b. 1922), who is shown sketching Curtis in this photograph, shared a hut with Dupain and Curtis on Goodenough Island, New Guinea during the war. Seale went on to a successful career as an illustrator, painter and lecturer, working for a long time for the Sydney Morning Herald and teaching architectural drawing at the University of Sydney. His son John is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Timothy Fairfax AC 2003

Artist and subject

Max Dupain (age 33 in 1944)

Robert Emerson Curtis (age 46 in 1944)

Clem Seale

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Supported by

Tim Fairfax AC (53 portraits supported)

Related information

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10:30am, Wed 26 May – Fri 25 Jun

Little faces is for babies and toddlers (with their grown up) to play, sing and have fun discovering a portrait together.

The Companion

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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.

Dupain detective

Magazine article by Johanna McMahon, 2019

Johanna McMahon revels in history and mystery in pursuit of a suite of unknown portrait subjects.

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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