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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.

Thea Proctor, c. 1896

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (frame: 7.1 cm x 6.1 cm depth 2 cm, image: 6.0 cm x 5.0 cm)

Thea Proctor (1879-1966), artist and stylesetter, trained at the Julian Ashton School before leaving Australia for London in 1903. She was to remain there, apart from a visit home in 1912-1914, until after World War 1. In her early years in London, she was a friend and model for her fellow Ashton School student, George Lambert, and encountered many of the major figures of the Edwardian art world. When she returned permanently to Sydney in 1921, her art and ideas were at the forefront of contemporary art and design in Australia; her authoritative opinions on decoration, colour, interior design, flower arrangement, ballet and fashion were widely published in new journals such as The Home (for which she designed many covers) and Art in Australia. An exhibitor in the watershed Burdekin House exhibition in 1929, she was a mentor and champion for young interior designers including Marion Hall Best. Although she maintained a large and varied circle of friends (and adversaries), she was a lifelong singleton, living very frugally in rented accommodation, making a slender living from drawing classes, periodic exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries and commissioned drawings of Eastern Suburbs children. The National Portrait Gallery’s 2005 exhibition The World of Thea Proctor, curated by Sarah Engledow and Andrew Sayers, was the first large-scale survey of Proctor’s work in all mediums and periods; the publication that accompanied the exhibition, with foreword by Barry Humphries, comprises the first extended biography of the artist.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Thea Bryant (Proctor) 2005

Accession number: 2005.120

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Thea Proctor (age 17 in 1896)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related portraits

1. Self portrait, 1921. All Thea Proctor.

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.

Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert

The real Thea

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2015

Long after the portraitist became indifferent to her, and died, a beguiling portrait hung over its subject.

The rose, 1927
The rose, 1927
The rose, 1927
The rose, 1927

The world of Thea Proctor

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2005

The world of Thea Proctor was the National Portrait Gallery's second exhibition to follow the life of a single person, following Rarely Everage: The lives of Barry Humphries.

Self portrait, 1948 Grace Cossington Smith
Self portrait, 1948 Grace Cossington Smith
Self portrait, 1948 Grace Cossington Smith
Self portrait, 1948 Grace Cossington Smith

Modern Australian Women

Magazine article by Gillian Raymond, 2005

Close contemporaries, Thea Proctor, Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith were frequently sources of inspiration and irritation to each other. 

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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.