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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.

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John Sumner

1976
Jim Paterson

synthetic polymer paint and dry pigment on board (sheet: 76.4 cm x 50.0 cm)

John Sumner (1924-2013), described as the 'father of Australian drama', trained and worked in repertory theatres in England and Scotland before the war, during which he visited Melbourne as a sailor. He returned here in 1952 to manage the Union Theatre at the University of Melbourne. The following year he founded the Union Theatre Repertory Company, which was to become the Melbourne Theatre Company - Australia's first professional theatre company - in 1968. In 1955, when his actors were working an 80-hour week and he was designing lights and sets and producing programmes himself, he produced Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. It became the first Australian play to be performed in England with an all-Australian cast, running for seven months in London and winning the 1957 Evening Standard Award for best play. Sumner worked for a time with the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust before returning to the UTRC in 1959; from that time he remained until 1987, commuting between Australia and England for the last 12 years. Over his 32 years in Melbourne he worked energetically to promote Australian playwrights, premiering many David Williamson plays and continuing his productive association with Lawler.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Jim Paterson 2004
© Jim Paterson

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

Jim Paterson

John Sumner (age 52 in 1976)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Jim Paterson (1 portrait)

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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.

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