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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.

L. Gordon Darling AC CMG, 2006

Jiawei Shen

oil on canvas (frame: 180.5 cm x 164.5 cm, support: 168.8 cm x 153.0 cm)

L Gordon Darling AC CMG (1921-2015), the Founding Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, was born in London and schooled in England before serving as a major in the AIF during World War II. In the early 1950s he became a company director with BHP, a position he held for thirty-two years. For fifteen years during this period he was also Chairman of Rheem Australia and Koitaki Ltd. His interest in the visual arts led him to accept the position of inaugural Chairman of the Board of the Australian National Gallery from 1982 to 1986. At the end of this period he established The Gordon Darling Australian Print Fund, which has acquired more than 6000 prints for the national collection to date. In 1991 he established the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provides funding and staff development opportunities for public art institutions Australia-wide. That year, too, he and his wife, Marilyn, initiated and facilitated the touring exhibition Uncommon Australians: Towards an Australian Portrait Gallery. The interest generated by the exhibition led to the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery. Amongst the very earliest acquisitions of the Gallery were gifts from Darling, who accepted the inaugural Board’s invitation to become the Founding Patron of the Gallery in mid-1998. Since then he has enabled the acquisition of many key works for the Collection, and his support carried the Gallery to the opening of its new, dedicated home in December 2008.

Jiawei Shen (b. 1948) who painted the portrait of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark for the National Portrait Gallery in 2005, often places his sitters within evocative dreamlike or remembered settings. The backdrop of his portrait of Darling suggests the competition-winning design for the dedicated National Portrait Gallery – the project the Founding Patron long envisaged and urged. Set apart from the rest of the Collection in the Gordon Darling Hall, and seeming to capture some of the natural light of the space, his portrait hangs adjacent to the boards listing the many donors and benefactors to the institution.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with the assistance of the Mundango Charitable Trust and Claudia Hyles 2006
© Jiawei Shen

Accession number: 2006.71

Currently on display: the foyer

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Artist and subject

Jiawei Shen (age 58 in 2006)

L. Gordon Darling AC, CMG (age 85 in 2006)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Gordon Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Gordon Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Gordon Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Gordon Darling interview video: 2 minutes

Gordon Darling

by Jiawei Shen

Portrait story

Gordon Darling talks about how Jiawei Shen came to paint his portrait.

Interview with Jiawei Shen video: 2 minutes
Interview with Jiawei Shen video: 2 minutes
Interview with Jiawei Shen video: 2 minutes
Interview with Jiawei Shen video: 2 minutes

Princess Mary

Portrait story

Artist Jiawei Shen describes the symbolism in his portrait of HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

L. Gordon Darling AC CMG, 2006 Jiawei Shen
L. Gordon Darling AC CMG, 2006 Jiawei Shen
L. Gordon Darling AC CMG, 2006 Jiawei Shen
L. Gordon Darling AC CMG, 2006 Jiawei Shen

Portrait of a patron

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2007

A new painting by Jiawei Shen captures the vision and resolve of the Gallery's founder, L. Gordon Darling AC CMG.

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ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.