Skip to main content
Menu

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.

(Margaret Whitlam) by the strength of her skin

1998
Kim Spooner

encaustic on canvas (support: 225.5 cm x 180.5 cm)

Margaret Whitlam AO (1919–2012), social worker and writer, grew up in Sydney and was a champion swimmer as a young woman, competing at the 1938 Empire Games. She married future Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1942 and in 1943 began work with the Family Welfare Bureau. Having attained a degree in social work from the University of Sydney, she was a hospital social worker during the 1960s while also undertaking many duties in Whitlam's south-western Sydney electorate. Described as 'one of the most outspoken and forthright women' to have occupied the Lodge, she was an active member of the Labor Party Women's Conference and maintained a high profile as a speaker and columnist during Whitlam's term as Prime Minister. Later, she worked with bodies such as the International Women's Year Advisory Committee, Commonwealth Hostels, the Sydney Dance Company, the National Council for International Literacy Year, the ACT Council of Social Services, Opera Australia, Musica Viva and the State Library of NSW. She published the memoir My Day (1973) and wrote of her extensive overseas travels in My Other World (2001).

Whitlam reportedly considered this portrait by Kim Spooner to be the best of the several portraits painted of her. The work was Spooner's entry for the 1998 Archibald Prize and was hung in the Salon des Refusés that year.

Gift of the artist 2004. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Kim Spooner

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

Kim Spooner (age 43 in 1998)

Margaret Whitlam AO (age 79 in 1998)

Donated by

Kim Spooner (1 portrait)

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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