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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.

Barbara Blackman, c. 1953

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 28.8 cm x 24.1 cm)

Barbara Blackman (b. 1928) was only 15 when the ABC Weekly published one of her poems. She became a member of Brisbane's literary circle, joining the writers' group 'Barjai' which included Judith Wright and Thea Astley. In 1950 she was diagnosed with optic atrophy, and was declared blind by the age of 22. 'It seemed to me I was given a life sentence for a crime I had not committed,' she has written. Moving to Sydney to study, she met artist Charles Blackman. After they married in 1952, they moved to Melbourne, where Blackman associated with the avant-garde group centered around the Melbourne Contemporary Art Society: Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams, Joy Hester, John and Sunday Reed, Clifton Pugh, John Perceval, Len French and Mirka Mora among others. In the 'swinging sixties', the Blackmans were part of the Australian push active in London. Long-term muse to her husband (they divorced in 1978) Blackman also worked as a magazine columnist, a radio-producer for Radio for the Print-Handicapped, and interviewer for the National Library's oral history program. Blackman published her biography Glass after Glass in 1997 and Portrait of a Friendship, which drew on her correspondence with Judith Wright, in 2007.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Barbara Blackman 2004

Accession number: 2004.162

Currently on display: Gallery Five (John Schaeffer Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Barbara Blackman AO (age 25 in 1953)

Donated by

Barbara Blackman AO (3 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.

Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist

Life class

Magazine article by Leonie Hellmers, 2004

Barbara Blackman reflects on her experiences as a life model.

Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist
Barbara Blackman, c. 1953 an unknown artist

Restoring histories

Magazine article by Gillian Raymond, 2004

Photographic conservation practices and the restoration of the Barbara Blackman photographic portrait.

Dame Edna Everage, 1982 Lewis Morley
Dame Edna Everage, 1982 Lewis Morley
Dame Edna Everage, 1982 Lewis Morley
Dame Edna Everage, 1982 Lewis Morley

Bare

Degrees of undress

Previous exhibition, 2015

Bare: Degrees of undress celebrates the candid, contrived, natural, sexy, ironic, beautiful, and fascinating in Australian portraiture that shows a bit of skin. 

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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.