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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.

Max Meldrum

c. 1937
Max Dupain OBE

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 29.9 cm x 21.1 cm)

Max Meldrum (1875-1955), artist, trained at the National Gallery School in Melbourne before leaving for France on an art scholarship in 1900. Abroad for thirteen years, he returned to Australia to extol the virtues of tonal painting - which he regarded as a science - writing and lecturing ceaselessly and combatively on the topic and amassing a band of dedicated adherents known as 'Meldrumites'. He opened an art school in Collins Street in 1915 and was elected president of the Victorian Artists' Society in 1916; over the next ten years, many students from the NGV School left it to join Meldrum's. His lecture 'The invariable truths of depictive art' was published in Max Meldrum His Art and Views in 1919. After more time in France, he returned to Melbourne to open a new Collins Street school in 1937; he won the Archibald in 1939 and 1940. Meldrum was pugnacious and made some powerful enemies, including Baldwin Spencer, who called him a 'conceited little megalomaniac'. His methods were loyally perpetuated through his students, notably Hayward Veal in Sydney and Percy Leason in Staten Island, USA. The Science of Appearances as Formulated and Taught by Max Meldrum was published in 1950.

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

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Max Dupain OBE (age 26 in 1937)

Max Meldrum (age 62 in 1937)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Supported by

Tim Fairfax AC (53 portraits supported)

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.

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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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Vintage Max

Magazine article by Gael Newton, 2003

Gael Newton delves into the life and art of renowned Australian photographer, Max Dupain.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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