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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.

Self portrait (Full Length in front of Easel), 1901-02

Hugh Ramsay

oil on canvas (frame: 102.0 cm x 63.0 cm, support: 89.3 cm x 51.0 cm)

Hugh Ramsay (1877–1906), painter, was runner-up for the National Gallery Travelling Scholarship in 1899, and sailed to Europe on the same ship as his fellow artist George Lambert. For fifteen months he painted and partied in a cold, grimy Paris studio, gaining some critical success while depending on the Lamberts for an occasional hot meal. In 1902 four of his paintings were chosen for exhibition at the New Salon, Paris; this extraordinary achievement earned him the patronage of Dame Nellie Melba, a relative of his friend Ambrose Patterson. When Ramsay fell ill, she funded his return to Victoria. Here, he worked hard, amassing works for his sole one-man exhibition (at Melba’s rented home in Toorak) before dying of consumption at the age of twenty-eight. It was widely acknowledged that he had the most brilliant potential of the artists of his generation. ‘Had he lived longer’, said Lambert, ‘he would have beaten the lot of us.’

The many self portraits Ramsay painted in the Paris studio, which are now distributed through the collections of major Australian public galleries, comprise one of the most important series in the history of Australian art. In this characteristically dashing work, Ramsay pays homage to his art heroes, Velasquez and Manet.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Estate of John Oswald Wicking 2003

Accession number: 2003.43

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Hugh Ramsay (age 24 in 1901)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

John O. Wicking (2 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.

Hugh Ramsay portrait story video: 2 minutes
Hugh Ramsay portrait story video: 2 minutes
Hugh Ramsay portrait story video: 2 minutes
Hugh Ramsay portrait story video: 2 minutes

Hugh Ramsay

'Letters from Paris'

Portrait story

Hugh Ramsay's letters were written while he was living in Paris to his family back in Australia.

Portrait of Ambrose Patterson, 1901-02 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait of Ambrose Patterson, 1901-02 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait of Ambrose Patterson, 1901-02 Hugh Ramsay
Portrait of Ambrose Patterson, 1901-02 Hugh Ramsay

Velasquez Touch

Magazine article by Andrew Sayers AM, 2004

Former NPG Director, Andrew Sayers, explores the creative collaborations between four Australian artists living in Paris during the first years of the twentieth century.

Tea time, c.1898–1902 by Rupert Bunny (1864–1947)
Tea time, c.1898–1902 by Rupert Bunny (1864–1947)
Tea time, c.1898–1902 by Rupert Bunny (1864–1947)
Tea time, c.1898–1902 by Rupert Bunny (1864–1947)

Impressions

Painting light and life

Previous exhibition, 2011

Impressions: Painting light and life presents portraits by, and of, artists at the heart of Australian impressionism including Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin.

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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.