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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.

Nancy Bird Walton

c. 1973
Judy Cassab AO CBE

oil on canvas (frame: 107.5 cm x 92.5 cm, support: 91.5 cm x 76.5 cm)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1915–2009), aviatrix, went to Sydney at age seventeen to have flying lessons with Charles Kingsford Smith, paying for her helmet, leathers and goggles with money she'd saved from working in her father's general store in Kew, New South Wales. She obtained her commercial pilot's licence in 1935 and was hired as the pilot for the Far West Children's Health Scheme, flying nurses and doctors to patients in remote areas. Bird Walton won the Ladies' Trophy in the Brisbane to Adelaide Centenary Air Race in 1936, flying the fastest of all competitors on the Melbourne to Adelaide leg. During the war, she was a commandant in the Women’s Air Training Corps; in 1950 she founded the Australian Women Pilots' Association, which subsequently encouraged many to defy the notion that women were unsuited to careers in aviation. Her 1990 autobiography, My God, It's a Woman!, took its title from one cattle station owner's reaction to her feminine frame emerging from the cockpit on a remote airstrip.

Judy Cassab was commissioned to paint a portrait of Bird Walton's husband, Charles Walton, in 1973. It was such a success, the couple commissioned this portrait, which shows Bird Walton in a relaxed pose, wearing an elegant outfit she selected for the sitting. The painting style is mildly impressionistic, prefiguring the more abstract style of Cassab's later work.

Gift of Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE 2008. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Judy Cassab/Copyright Agency, 2021

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

Judy Cassab AO CBE (age 53 in 1973)

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (age 58 in 1973)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Military

Donated by

Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1 portrait)

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.

Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab

Flesh, figure and rock

Magazine article by Aimee Board, 2018

Aimee Board traces Judy Cassab’s path to the Australian outback, arriving at the junction of inspiration and abstraction.

Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938
Nancy Bird Walton, c. 1938

The aviatrix

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2009

Joanna Gilmour explores the extraordinary life of Australian female aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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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