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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.

Lowitja O'Donoghue, 2006

Robert Hannaford

oil on canvas (frame: 159.7 cm x 159.7 cm, support: 136.8 cm x 136.8 cm)

Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE (b. 1932), Indigenous rights campaigner, is a Yankunjatjara woman. Removed from her mother at the age of two, she was raised in a mission home and worked as a nurse before she joined the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1967. By 1975, she had become its regional director in South Australia. She was Foundation Chair of the National Aboriginal Conference in 1977 and chaired the Aboriginal Development Commission from 1989 to 1990. While Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission between 1990 and 1996, she helped to draft the Mabo legislation. She has five honorary doctorates and an honorary Professorial Fellowship, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal Australian College of Physicians. In 2005 she received the Papal honour of Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great. O’Donoghue was Australian of the Year in 1984, when she became the first Aboriginal person to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. She is a designated National Living Treasure.

Robert Hannaford (b. 1944) was political cartoonist for the Adelaide Advertiser for three years, and took up portrait painting full-time with the encouragement of the veteran South Australian portraitist, Sir Ivor Hele. He has been a favourite in both the Archibald Prize – in which he has been a finalist nineteen times, and won the People’s Choice Award three times – and the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, which he won in 1990. From the first sitting Hannaford was excited about the portrait of O’Donoghue; he observed a ‘vast understanding and sympathy in her face, a sadness,’ but also thought she looked ‘fantastic in that light I’ve got in that studio’. The portrait process involved many hours’ sittings during a period in which the artist was undergoing treatment for cancer; Hannaford and O’Donoghue became friends. The portrait is one of the most popular in the Gallery’s collection.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Commissioned with funds donated by BHP Billiton Limited, Rio Tinto Aboriginal Fund, Newmont Australia Limited, Reconciliation Australia, Hon Paul Keating and Hon Fred Chaney 2006
© Commonwealth of Australia

Accession number: 2006.91

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Robert Hannaford (age 62 in 2006)

Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue AM CBE (age 74 in 2006)

Subject professions

Activism

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.

Lowitja O'Donoghue, 2006 Robert Hannaford
Lowitja O'Donoghue, 2006 Robert Hannaford
Lowitja O'Donoghue, 2006 Robert Hannaford
Lowitja O'Donoghue, 2006 Robert Hannaford

Anatomist's eye

Magazine article by Diana Warnes, 2016

Robert Hannaford has completed around 400 portraits over the span of his career. 

Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie

The hands have it

Magazine article by Angus Trumble, 2016

Angus Trumble treats the gallery’s collection with a dab hand.

Lowitja O'Donoghue by Robert Hannaford video: 4 minutes and 5 seconds
Lowitja O'Donoghue by Robert Hannaford video: 4 minutes and 5 seconds
Lowitja O'Donoghue by Robert Hannaford video: 4 minutes and 5 seconds
Lowitja O'Donoghue by Robert Hannaford video: 4 minutes and 5 seconds

Lowitja O'Donoghue and Robert Hannaford

'I'm going to wear everything red, black, and yellow'

Portrait story

Lowitja O'Donoghue discusses her life and portrait by Robert Hannaford.

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© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
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.