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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.

Portrait of Kym Bonython/Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap, 1963-66

John Brack

oil on canvas (diptych)

Hugh Reskymer 'Kym' Bonython AC DFC AFC (1920-2011), company director, art dealer, jazz authority, music promoter and speedway entrepreneur, was one of the most significant collectors and dealers of contemporary Australian art in the postwar period. Raised in Adelaide, where his grandfather and father had been leading philanthropists, he served in the RAAF during World War II before returning to the ABC as a broadcaster. His jazz program ran from 1937 to the mid-1970s. As a music promoter, Bonython brought scores of international jazz and rock acts to Australia. At the same time, he was a speedway impresario in Adelaide from 1954 to 1973 and won the Australian speedway championship in 1956. He owned galleries in Sydney from 1965 to 1976, and Adelaide from 1961 to 1983. Director of Austereo Ltd from 1979 to 1991, he sat on a host of arts-related boards and committees. Bonython wrote six books on Australian painting and an autobiography, published in 1979.

John Brack painted Kym Bonython on commission in 1963. When the work was completed, Bonython asked the artist to alter it to show him wearing his racing cap. Brack protested that it would upset the balance of the painting, and instead suggested a separate canvas depicting the cap. The two paintings are now considered to be a single work. Portrait of Kym Bonython was rescued from the flames as the Bonython family home burned to the ground on Ash Wednesday in February 1983.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Kym Bonython AC DFC AFC 2007
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Helen Brack

Accession number: 2007.19.a-b

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Brack (age 43 in 1963)

Kym Bonython (age 43 in 1963)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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.

Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack

Bonfire of the vanities

Magazine article by Stuart Purves, 2016

Australian Galleries Director Stuart Purves tells the story of two portraits by John Brack.

Interview with Andrew Sayers video: 2 minutes
Interview with Andrew Sayers video: 2 minutes
Interview with Andrew Sayers video: 2 minutes
Interview with Andrew Sayers video: 2 minutes

Kym Bonython

'The man and his cap'

Portrait story

Former National Portrait Gallery Director, Andrew Sayers, describes John Brack's portrait of Kym Bonython.

Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the early life and career of John Brack.

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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.