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Sir Ian Potter
, 1973

by Bryan Westwood

oil on composition board (frame: 109.0 cm x 109.5 cm, sight: 91.0 cm x 90.3 cm)

Sir Ian Potter (1902– 1994), company director, stockbroker, merchant banker and philanthropist, was the founder of the Ian Potter Foundation, one of Australia’s major philanthropic bodies. An enigmatic self-made man, Potter worked full- time while studying economics full-time at Sydney University; he graduated top of his year. In 1936 he moved to Melbourne to found the stockbroking firm Ian Potter & Co. Over his career he served on the boards of twenty-five companies, travelling often to the US and Europe. He retired from Potter and Co in 1967, three years after creating the Ian Potter Foundation. During his lifetime alone, its grants amounted to more than $22 million, and he himself made large donations to the arts, hospitals, universities, sciences, social welfare and environment and heritage conservation until he died. Knighted in 1962, Potter was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Science in 1978 for his ‘conspicuous service to the cause of science’.

Bryan Westwood (1930–2000), painter and printmaker, was largely self-taught, although he took some classes with Justin O’Brien, Jeffrey Smart and Dorothy Thornhill in the 1960s. Westwood first exhibited paintings of streets and buildings of a vaguely surrealist nature at the Bonython Galleries in 1969. He later turned to photorealist portraits, many of them depicting his artist friends. One such, of artist and critic Elwyn Lynn, won him the Archibald Prize of 1989; he won the prize again in 1992 with an unnerving portrayal of Prime Minister Paul Keating. Between 1972 and 1992 he held solo exhibitions annually. The National Portrait Gallery has portraits by Westwood of Vincent, Warwick and James Fairfax, Bart Cummings, Justin O’Brien, Sir Ian McLennan, Tim Storrier and Malcolm Fraser. This painting, considered by Lady Potter to be the most convincing portrayal of her late husband, was part of the seminal exhibition Uncommon Australians: Towards an Australian Portrait Gallery in 1992–93.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Lady Primrose Potter 2006
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2006.37