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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.

Sir Lawrence Wackett, c. 1961

William Dargie

oil on canvas (frame: 124.0 cm x 95.5 cm, support: 102.0 cm x 76.0 cm)

Sir Lawrence Wackett KBE DFC AFC (1896–1982), aircraft designer, pilot and entrepreneur, was educated at Duntroon Military Academy and chosen as a member of the newly formed Australian Flying Corps. In World War I he served in Palestine and Europe, and was noted for his courageous actions and innovative methods, making, for example, an aircraft machine gun out of parts from a Singer sewing machine he bought in Port Said. During his service, he played key roles in the Battle of Hamel and the dismantling of the Hindenberg Line; he was promoted to Major and decorated for bravery under fire. In 1923, Wackett retired from operations to study aircraft design, heading an agency known as the RAAF Experimental Station to produce aircraft in Australia. Wackett designed the Widgeon I and II flying-boat in 1924 as well as the Warragal I and II landplanes. As head of the new Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation from 1936, Wackett designed the Wirraway fighter, of which more than 700 units were produced. Mustangs, Sabres and Mirages were produced under license at CAC’s Melbourne premises, as well as a practice plane for the Empire Air Training Scheme, the Wackett Trainer. Wackett was knighted for his services to aviation in 1954 and received the Oswald Watt Gold Medal in 1974. A keen angler, he wrote two books about trout fishing before Aircraft Pioneer: an Autobiography (1972).

Sir William Dargie (1912–2003) painted dozens of leaders in industry and business over his long career, including Wackett’s friends Essington Lewis and Harold Darling. The perspective in the portrait of Wackett is idiosyncratic. He sits in a boardroom or drawing-room chair, but he is in the open air; the façade of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s main building, in which his office was actually located, is below him on the right. The building now houses RMIT’s Sir Lawrence Wackett Centre for Aerospace Design Technology.

Gift of Arlette Perkins, daughter of Sir Lawrence Wackett 2009
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2009.154

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Dargie (age 49 in 1961)

Sir Lawrence Wackett KBE DFC AFC (age 65 in 1961)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Sir Lawrence Wackett, c. 1961 William Dargie
Sir Lawrence Wackett, c. 1961 William Dargie
Sir Lawrence Wackett, c. 1961 William Dargie
Sir Lawrence Wackett, c. 1961 William Dargie

Starry knight

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Aircraft designer, pilot and entrepreneur, Sir Lawrence Wackett rejoins friends and colleagues on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery.

Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor

The Changing Face of the Scientist

Magazine article by Elizabeth Finlay, 2003

Scientists tend to conjure up images of men in white coats in labs but this is just one stereotype in an evolving history of how we have perceived scientists, and how their profession has been understood over the years.

Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie

Sir William Dargie CBE

Magazine article by Magda Keaney, 2003

Sir William Dargie, painter and eight times winner of the Archibald Prize for portraiture, died in Melbourne on July 26, 2003, aged 91.

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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.