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Ian Roberts (after Coypel 1709)
, 2003

by Ross Watson

oil on composition board (frame: 125.0 cm x 101.5 cm, support: 106.0 cm x 80.0 cm)

Ian Roberts (b. 1965), actor and former Test footballer, remains one of a handful of openly gay professional footballers world-wide. English-born Roberts grew up in South Coogee and began playing for the rugby league club South Sydney in 1986. Four years later, in a move that made him rugby league's highest paid player, he left Souths for Manly. In 1995 he signed with the Super League, and left Manly to captain the North Queensland Cowboys. Remembered as a tough, fair and valorous competitor, Roberts played nine State of Origin games for NSW and thirteen Tests for Australia. In late 2000 he was accepted into the competitive National Institute of Dramatic Art. Since graduating in 2003, he has appeared in feature films, stage productions and television shows in Australia, the USA and the UK, and worked as a baggage handler for Virgin Airlines. Having marched in previous years with the Labor party, in 2017 he joined the NRL float at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The same year, he successfully lobbied the NRL to give public support to same-sex marriage.

Ross Watson is a Melbourne artist, whose work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and many private collections, including Sir Elton John's and James Wolfensohn's. Between 1996 and 2001 Watson produced a series of posed figure studies of a barely clad Roberts in obviously staged studio settings. This painting is part of another series titled Galerie des Glaces, or Hall of Mirrors, in which Watson has interpolated lithe twentieth century figures into paintings by Vermeer, Ter Borsch, Bronzino and other old masters. This work is 'after' Antoine Coypel (1661-1722), a French painter in the Baroque style whose most famous production is the ceiling of the Chapel at Versailles (1708).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2004.22