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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.

Robert Emerson Curtis, 1943

Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.5 cm x 40.0 cm, image: 40.5 cm x 40.0 cm)

Robert Emerson Curtis (1898–1986), artist, arrived in Sydney from England in his mid-teens. Having studied art by correspondence, he went to the USA with his friend, cinematographer Charles Chauvel, in 1922 and spent six years in San Francisco and Chicago, studying, creating etchings and woodcuts and illustrating various magazines. Surprised on his return to Sydney to find that an arch bridge was under way, he approached engineer John Bradfield and requested access to the Sydney Harbour Bridge site. Over the ensuing years he created a series of lithographs documenting the construction. Some of these were published as Building the Bridge in 1933; others, along with his recollections of the period, were published in the book The Bridge in 1981. During World War 2 he depicted munitions manufacture and worked as a camouflage officer in Cairns and New Guinea; in 1945, as an official war artist, he depicted industry associated with the war in Australia. In the postwar years Curtis shared Max Dupain’s interest in the construction of the Opera House; his A Vision Takes Form - Sydney Opera House was published in 1967.

Collection:National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Richard King 2008
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2008.31

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Max Dupain (age 32 in 1943)

Robert Emerson Curtis (age 45 in 1943)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Richard King (16 portraits)

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.

Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain

Dupain detective

Magazine article by Johanna McMahon, 2019

Johanna McMahon revels in history and mystery in pursuit of a suite of unknown portrait subjects.

Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain

Vintage Max

Magazine article by Gael Newton, 2003

Gael Newton delves into the life and art of renowned Australian photographer, Max Dupain.

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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.