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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.

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Colleen McCullough

1992-1993 (printed 2005)
Anthony Browell

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 30.3 cm x 40.3 cm, image: 24.5 cm x 35.0 cm)

The novelist Colleen McCullough (1937-2015) was born in Wellington, NSW. As a young woman she trained as a neurophysiologist and spent more than a decade working successfully in that field, helping to establish the Department of Neurophysiology at Sydney’s Royal North Shore hospital and researching and teaching for ten years at Yale Medical School. But in her thirties, uncertain about her future earning capacity in such a male-dominated field, she turned to writing, publishing her first novel, Tim, in 1974. The phenomenal success of her second novel, The Thorn Birds (1977), enabled her to abandon neuroscience and pursue writing full-time. The novel was first published in the US, where the manuscript sold for a then world-record 1.9 million dollars. It went on to sell over 35 million copies worldwide and to spawn a mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward – an adaptation that McCullough considered “absolute vomit.” In the wake of the novel’s success she settled on Norfolk Island, where she has written a string of further best-sellers, including An Indecent Obsession (1981) and the Masters of Rome series (1990-1997). In 1998 she was named one of Australia’s 100 Living Treasures.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005
© Anthony Browell

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

Anthony Browell (age 47 in 1992)

Colleen McCullough (age 55 in 1992)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

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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.

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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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