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The Mask of Barry Humphries
, c. 1972

by William Dargie

oil on composition board (frame: 64.5 cm x 53.2 cm, support: 52.5 cm x 41.0 cm)

Barry Humphries AO CBE (b. 1934) was well into his career as an actor and writer by the time this portrait was painted in the early 1970s. Although Humphries had long been based overseas, Dargie has commented that preparations for this portrait were made during a period when he was 'holed-up' in Melbourne. The genres of still life and portraiture are combined in this rather eerie work. Although it stands in considerable contrast to Dargie's more straightforward portraits, it is not unusual in his repertoire. He began sketching and painting from plaster models while at art school, and made paintings of busts, draped masks and sculptures from the 1930s through to the 1970s. Another portrait of Humphries depicts the sitter's head in a Chinese bowl with his hands lying alongside. The casts Dargie made of Humphries's head and hands are now in the Victorian State Library.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Marlene McCarthy 2006
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2006.24