Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

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
Sir William Dargie CBE

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.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Arlette Perkins daughter of Sir Lawrence Wackett 2009
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Roger Dargie and Faye Dargie

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

Sir William Dargie CBE (age 49 in 1961)

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

Donated by

Roger Perkins (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.

Sir Lawrence Wackett
Sir Lawrence Wackett
Sir Lawrence Wackett
Sir Lawrence Wackett

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
Professor Peter Doherty
Professor Peter Doherty
Professor Peter Doherty

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.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency