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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.

Colleen McCullough, 1992-93 (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

Accession number: 2005.3

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Anthony Browell (age 47 in 1992)

Colleen McCullough (age 55 in 1992)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

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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.

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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.