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Sir Donald Bradman
, 1990

by Bill Leak

oil on canvas (frame: 158.5 cm x 128.0 cm, support: 150.5 cm x 120.0 cm)

Sir Donald Bradman AC (1908–2001), Australia’s greatest cricketer, is regularly named the greatest player the game has ever known. During his first-class career, Bradman amassed 28 067 runs with an average of 95.14; scored 117 centuries and 37 double centuries; and six times exceeded 300 runs. His Test career spanned 20 years, and in his 80 Test innings he scored 6996 runs with an average of 99.94 – a feat unequalled in the history of Test cricket. In 1949, Bradman became the first Test cricketer ever to receive a knighthood; to date, he is the only Australian cricketer so honoured. Fifty years later, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame named him the greatest Australian athlete of the twentieth century.

Bill Leak (b. 1956), portrait painter and caricaturist, trained at the Julian Ashton art school in the mid- 1970s and began his career painting landscapes. In 1978 he left Australia to travel and study in Europe. He returned in 1982, exhibited in Sydney and worked as a cartoonist at the Bulletin. In 1985 he began a ten-year stint as an illustrator for the Sydney Morning Herald; ten years later he took on the role of chief political illustrator for the Australian. As well as his nine Walkley awards for journalism and nineteen Stanley Awards from the Australian Black and White Artists’ Society (eight of them Gold Awards), he has been an Archibald Prize finalist twelve times. Having already painted The Don for Bowral’s Bradman Museum, Bill Leak approached him again at the suggestion of Gordon and Marilyn Darling, Founding Patrons of the National Portrait Gallery, who were looking at the time for a Bradman portrait for their touring exhibition, Uncommon Australians: Towards a National Portrait Gallery. Bradman agreed to a second series of sittings, and the resulting painting was donated to the Gallery to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of Bradman’s birth in 2008. Leak remarked that ‘in a country where religion has largely been replaced by sport, it was easy to see my responsibility as capturing the likeness of the Almighty.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of L Gordon Darling AC CMG 2008
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2008.76