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Harold Darling, 1951

William Dargie

oil on canvas (frame: 123.3 cm x 97.8 cm)

Harold Darling (1885-1950) was chairman of BHP from 1922 to 1950. Born in Adelaide, he entered his father's milling and grain business when he was 18. Eleven years later, in 1914, his father died and he became principal of John Darling and Son, at the same time assuming his father's position on the board of directors of BHP. In 1922 he was elected chairman of the board, although he was its youngest member. Over his years as chairman, during which he was also chairman of numerous BHP-owned companies including Australian Iron and Steel, Wellington Alluvials, Stewarts & Lloyds and Rylands Bros, and a director of BHP Collieries, Tubemakers of Australia, Imperial Chemical Industries and the National Bank of Australasia, Darling often had to face difficult meetings with shareholders. However, the company grew exponentially during his term. From 1934 defence of Australia, and particularly of the Newcastle steelworks, was his inevitable concern. He was the first chairman of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in 1936 and represented the corporation on the Aircraft Advisory Committee in 1941. In adapting production to wartime exigencies he worked in brilliant partnership with his close friend Essington Lewis, general manager of the company. Professionally and personally a loyal, honest and modest man, Darling's belief that only private enterprise could create a stable and prosperous economy led him to found the Institute of Public Affairs in 1942. He was a generous benefactor, particularly to South Australian institutions.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of BHP Billiton 2003
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2003.95

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Dargie (age 39 in 1951)

Harold Darling

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Donated by

BHP Billiton (11 portraits)

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