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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.

Ming Vase (Sir Robert Menzies)

c. 1970
Les Tanner and Gus McLaren (producer)

glazed ceramic (13.5 cm x 11.5 cm depth 17.5 cm diameter 13.5 cm)

Rt Hon. Sir Robert Gordon Menzies AK KT CH PC QC (1894–1978) was prime minister of Australia for a record total of nineteen years: from 1939 to 1941 and 1949 to 1966. Born in Jeparit, Victoria, Menzies attended school in Ballarat and studied at Melbourne University, where he gained a reputation as a brilliant speaker. Following early success at the Bar and in state politics, he entered Federal parliament in 1934. He became prime minister in 1939 as leader of the United Australia Party, but bitter divisions led to his resignation and the disintegration of the UAP. From the back benches, Menzies founded the Liberal Party, which he led from 1944 to 1966. As prime minister through a period of remarkable national prosperity, Menzies cultivated the USA as a ‘powerful friend’, furthering the two nations’ economic and military ties. A staunch monarchist, he was invested as a Knight of the Thistle and succeeded Winston Churchill as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1965 to 1978. Menzies’s nickname, Ming, originated in the Scottish pronunciation of his name, Ming-ees, which Menzies preferred to the usual pronunciation, possibly because it was the way the Queen said his name. The nickname took on a new dimension when a newspaper columnist extended it to ‘Ming the Merciless’ after the Emperor in the Flash Gordon comic strip. ‘Fling out Ming’ subsequently became an election slogan, but Menzies was to retire, not to be voted out of office.

Les Tanner (1927-2001) and Gus McLaren (1923-2008) met after the war in occupied Japan, where they both drew cartoons for the British Commonwealth Occupation newspaper. After returning to Australia they both worked for a number of newspapers around the country, their careers coinciding for a time at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. McLaren, a cartoonist, ceramicist and film animator, made the mould for this vessel from models made by Tanner.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2004
© Estates of Les Tanner and Gus McLaren

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

Les Tanner (age 43 in 1970)

Gus McLaren (age 47 in 1970)

Sir Robert Menzies KT AK CH LLM QC (age 76 in 1970)

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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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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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