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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.

Portrait of Robert Klippel, 1980

Yvonne Audette AM

oil on composition board (frame: 162.5 cm x 124.5 cm, support: 152.5 cm x 114.5 cm)

Robert Klippel AO (1920-2001) was the most significant sculptor Australia has yet produced. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1939, and spent the war constructing model aircraft and ships designed to educate his fellow-servicemen in the recognition of enemy craft. After the war he studied sculpture in Sydney and London, and his 'assemblages' - sculptures that combined mechanical objects with organic materials - attracted enthusiasm in Europe. Among their admirers was the French surrealist André Breton, who organised an exhibition in Paris in 1949. Klippel moved to the USA in 1957, and spent a decade teaching there. He then returned to Sydney, where he lived and sculpted near Balmain until his death. He was collaborating on a retrospective show of his works at the Art Gallery of NSW when he died.

Yvonne Audette, painter, studied under John Passmore at the Julian Ashton School from 1948 to 1952. In 1955, she embarked on a decade of travel and study in the USA, London, France, Spain and Italy during which she mingled freely with the cutting edge abstractionists of the day. She returned to Sydney, where her first exhibition was with Robert Klippel at Kym Bonython's new gallery; she and Klippel remained close friends all his life. Within a couple of years she moved to Melbourne, where she still lives and works. In 1999 the Queensland Art Gallery mounted a major show of her art from the 1950s and 60s; her most recent commercial exhibition was in 2001 at the Metro 5 Gallery, Melbourne. Described as Australia's greatest living abstract painter, yet little known, Audette has recently gained a higher public profile with the publication of Yvonne Audette Paintings and Drawings 1949-2003 (2004).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2005
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Yvonne Audette/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2005.8

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Yvonne Audette AM (age 50 in 1980)

Robert Klippel AO (age 60 in 1980)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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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.

Robert Klippel, 1979 David Moore
Robert Klippel, 1979 David Moore
Robert Klippel, 1979 David Moore
Robert Klippel, 1979 David Moore

A bond of friendship

Magazine article by Yvonne Audette AM, 2005

Australia's major abstract painter Yvonne Audette discusses her portrait of sculptor Robert Kippel.

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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.