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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.

Florence Austral

c. 1930
Howard Barron

oil on canvas (frame: 158.0 cm x 116.0 cm, support: 132.0 cm x 91.5 cm)

Florence Austral (1892–1968), operatic soprano, achieved international renown during the 1920s. Born Florence Wilson, she studied at the Conservatorium of Music and the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1919. On arriving in London, she, like her compatriot Nellie Melba, adopted a name honouring her homeland and as Florence Austral debuted in the role of Brünnhilde in Wagner's Die Walküre at Covent Garden in 1922. During the 1920s and 1930s she toured North America and Australia and made the first of many recordings. The quality and power of her voice lent itself to the Wagnerian roles that secured her reputation, but she also performed in operas by Verdi, Mozart and Puccini. By the end of the 1930s, Austral was increasingly afflicted by multiple sclerosis. With her husband, flautist John Amadio, she returned to Australia after the war and in the 1950s took up a teaching position at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music in Newcastle. She was admitted to an aged care facility in the early 1960s.

Howard Barron was a renowned portraitist, whose commissions included Sir Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II and Dame Nellie Melba. This portrait of Austral is likely to have been painted when the diva toured Australia in 1930. Barron's portrait presents a clear statement about Austral's success, portraying her as a confident woman in a theatrical pose.

Gift of the University of Newcastle (Australia) 2007
© Estate of Howard Barron

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Howard Barron (age 30 in 1930)

Florence Austral (age 38 in 1930)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

The University of Newcastle (1 portrait)

Related information

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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.

Florence Austral
Florence Austral
Florence Austral
Florence Austral

Pretty in peach

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2008
It's remarkable that the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond has produced two of Australia's most successful opera singers. Three decades apart, but within a short distance of each other, both Helen Porter Mitchell and Florence Wilson were born.
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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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