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Sir Frank Packer KBE
, 1956

by Judy Cassab

oil on composition board (frame: 137.5 cm x 107.5 cm, support: 123.0 cm x 92.5 cm)

Sir Douglas Frank Hewson Packer KBE (1906–1974), media proprietor, grew up in Sydney and started out as cadet journalist on the Daily Guardian, which was part-owned by his father, in 1923. Having, at his father’s insistence, developed experience of all aspects of the newspaper trade, he became advertising manager at Smith’s Newspapers and in 1933, in partnership with Edward Theodore, published the first edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly. Three years later, after inheriting the bulk of his father’s media interests, he formed Consolidated Press Ltd, launching the Daily Telegraph in March 1936 and the Sunday Telegraph in 1939. Packer expanded his business interests to include television in the 1950s. His company Television Corporation Limited was one of the first to hold a commercial television licence in Australia, with TCN-9 beginning test transmissions in July 1956. Meanwhile, by the early 1960s, the Australian Women’s Weekly had grown to a circulation exceeding 800,000, helping Australian Consolidated Press (as it was known from 1957) become the largest magazine publisher in the southern hemisphere by the time of Packer’s death. An enthusiastic rugby player, cricketer and rower at school, Packer was later known for his love of horseracing, polo and yachting, chairing the syndicate which built Gretel I and Gretel II to challenge for the America’s Cup in 1962 and 1970.

Packer was also a keen art collector and supported artists through the prizes sponsored by the Australian Women’s Weekly. Judy Cassab’s two consecutive wins in the women’s section of the Weekly’s Portrait Prize (in 1955 and 1956) brought her to the attention of Packer and resulted in the creation of this portrait, an Archibald Prize finalist for 1956. It was acquired by Australian Consolidated Press some years later. On donating the work to the National Portrait Gallery in 2006, his widow and second wife, Florence, Lady Packer, recalled that it had ‘lived mainly in Frank’s favourite place: the office’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the Packer family 2006
Accession number: 2006.82