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Peter Porter, 2004

Tony Clark

synthetic polymer paint and permanent marker on canvas (support: 101.5 cm x 76.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Peter Porter (1929–2010), poet, grew up in Brisbane and began a cadetship with the Courier-Mail in 1947. Three years later he moved to London where he worked in bookselling and advertising before becoming a freelance writer and broadcaster, eventually becoming poetry critic for the Observer. During the 1950s he was associated with a group known as ‘The Group’, coordinated by the remarkably influential Philip Hobsbaum, who was to foster a generation of top British writers in similar ‘groups’ in Belfast and Glasgow. Porter’s first collection of poetry, Once Bitten, Twice Bitten, was published in 1961. In 1974 he came to Australia for the Adelaide Festival; the same year, his wife died, an event that gave rise to The Cost of Seriousness (1978), containing some of his finest work. During the 1970s and 1980s he collaborated with Arthur Boyd on four illustrated books of poetry. Australian consciousness of Porter’s work developed over the 1980s; in 1990 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Australian Literature, and Bruce Bennett’s critical biography Spirit in Exile: Peter Porter and his Poetry was published here in 1991. Over his career Porter built up a body of ‘Australian’ poems that are characteristically more attuned to the natural world than his ‘English’ oeuvre, gaining a reputation as one of the few poets able to encompass the different sensibilities of the two lands. In 2001 he was Poet in Residence at London’s Royal Albert Hall for the ‘Proms’ and the following year his collection Max is Missing (2001) won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Poetry Collection of the Year. In 2001 he returned to Melbourne for the premiere of The Voice of Love, a song cycle with words by Porter and music by the British composer Nicholas Maw. Porter was given the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2002. In the years before Porter died, he and Clive James recorded a scintillating series of 24 conversations about literature. James said of his friend ‘he knows more than I do, but if I live long enough I might catch up’.

Tony Clark (b. 1954) moved to London with his family and completed his undergraduate degree at Reading. He exhibited with Art Projects Melbourne in 1982 and over the next ten years he participated in shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Clark was commissioned by Nick Cave to make the album artwork for The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and No More Shall We Part. A book about his decades-long project Myriorama – scores of same-sized, limited-colour landscapes with horizons that line up – was published in 2012.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2004

Accession number: 2004.28

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Tony Clark (age 50 in 2004)

Peter Porter OAM (age 75 in 2004)

Subject professions


Related portraits

1. Peter Porter, 2009. All Norman McBeath.
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