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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.

True Stories - Helen Garner

2003
Jenny Sages

encaustic, oil and pigment on composition board (support: 122.2 cm x 200.2 cm)

Helen Garner (b. 1942) is one of Australia's best-known writers. Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Monkey Grip (1977), won a National Book Council Award and was made into a film released in 1982. Honour and Other People's Children (1980), Postcards from Surfers (1985), The Children's Bach (1984), Cosmo Cosmolino (1992), True Stories (1997) and The Feel of Steel (2001) followed. Since the 1990s Garner has pursued a variety of ethical questions in journal articles and non-fiction books. In 1993 she won a Walkley Award for her Time magazine article about Daniel Valerio, a two-year-old who died of abuse inflicted by his mother's boyfriend. Two years later her book The First Stone, exploring claims of sexual harassment at Melbourne University, caused a sensation. Her rumination on the murder of a Canberra student, Joe Cinque's Consolation, was published in 2004 and made into a film in 2016.

For this portrait, artist Jenny Sages created a series of oil sketches before laying down the fundamental elements in wax and red pigment. 'Then, with my heart in my mouth, I dipped my fingers into the wax medium and then into the pigment. Using my fingers as a brush, I just hoped for the best …' The work glows with the light of the studio and reflects the warm relationship between the women.

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

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

Jenny Sages (age 70 in 2003)

Helen Garner (age 61 in 2003)

Subject professions

Media and communications

Donated by

Jenny Sages (27 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.

Ms Anna Burke MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives 2015 by Jude Rae
Ms Anna Burke MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives 2015 by Jude Rae
Ms Anna Burke MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives 2015 by Jude Rae
Ms Anna Burke MP, Speaker of the House of Representatives 2015 by Jude Rae

Hired guns, bounty hunters and horse whisperers

Magazine article by Jude Rae, 2016

Jude Rae contemplates the portrait commission.

Kate Grenville

'Making Stories'

Portrait story

Australian writer Kate Grenville discusses her career and portrait by Jenny Sages.

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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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