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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Dame Joan Sutherland

c. 1977
Robert Hannaford AM

oil on board (frame: 105.0 cm x 82.0 cm)

Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE (1926–2010) was one of the world's greatest operatic divas. In 1950, Sutherland left Sydney to study at the Royal College of Music in London, making her debut at Covent Garden two years later in The Magic Flute. Conductor Richard Bonynge became her mentor and later her husband. He encouraged her to abandon the heavier vocal roles and become a coloratura soprano; the transformation was key to her success. Sutherland's 1959 performance in Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden launched an international career that spanned nearly 40 years, during which her distinctive voice and wide repertoire earned her the title 'La Stupenda'. In 1974, Sutherland and Bonynge returned to Australia, and over the next decade they lent their star power to the Australian Opera. Sutherland retired after her last performance at Covent Garden on New Year's Eve 1990 and lived in Switzerland for many years. After her death she was the first Australian to be given a memorial service in Westminster Abbey since Sir Robert Menzies in 1978.

Robert Hannaford, commissioned to paint Sutherland by the Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1977, produced several portraits of the diva. The portrait sittings took place at Potts Point, Sydney, over a two-week period during which Sutherland was performing at the Opera House. Hannaford recalls that during sittings she sang along to tapes provided by Bonynge.

Gift of William Bowmore AO OBE 2003. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Robert Hannaford/Copyright Agency, 2021

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

Robert Hannaford AM (age 33 in 1977)

Dame Joan Sutherland OM AC DBE (age 51 in 1977)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

William Bowmore AO OBE (1 portrait)

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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Anatomist's eye

Magazine article by Diana Warnes, 2016

Robert Hannaford has completed around 400 portraits over the span of his career. 

Lowitja O'Donoghue and Robert Hannaford

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Portrait story

Lowitja O'Donoghue discusses her life and portrait by Robert Hannaford.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency