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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.

Mr and Mrs Horace Keats in the "Christopher Brennan Cycle", 1945

Dora Toovey

oil on canvas (frame: 152.4 cm x 122.0 cm depth 8.4 cm, support: 122.5 cm x 91.5 cm)

Horace Keats (1895–1945), pianist, conductor and composer, came to Australia from England in 1915 as a vaudevillian’s accompanist. Staying in the country to accompany Peter Dawson, amongst others, between 1917 and 1923 he was orchestral pianist and conductor for Count Filippini’s operas and performed in the restaurant of Farmers department store. Soon after, he became involved in the formation of the ABC. During the 1920s he and his wife, soprano Janet le Brun Brown (performing as Barbara Russell) began their long broadcasting careers; except for a short stint with the BBC, Keats was associated with the ABC until he died. From 1933 he composed earnestly, writing more than 120 pieces; his wife was the principal performer of his songs. In the mid–1930s he began setting the work of Australian poets to music, soon commencing an ambitious song cycle of the poems of Christopher Brennan (1870–1932). Janet and Horace are depicted in performance, with the spectral figure of Brennan attending closely. Horace Keats died before the painting was completed. Words from Brennan’s poem ‘I am shut out of mine own heart’ – the last song the couple ever performed together – drift across it.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Anne and Brennan Keats 2009
© Estate of Dora Toovey

Accession number: 2009.49

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Dora Toovey (age 47 in 1945)

Horace Keats (age 50 in 1945)

Janet Keats (age 45 in 1945)

Christopher Brennan

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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.

Mr and Mrs Horace Keats in the "Christopher Brennan Cycle", 1945 Dora Toovey
Mr and Mrs Horace Keats in the "Christopher Brennan Cycle", 1945 Dora Toovey
Mr and Mrs Horace Keats in the "Christopher Brennan Cycle", 1945 Dora Toovey
Mr and Mrs Horace Keats in the "Christopher Brennan Cycle", 1945 Dora Toovey

Heartfelt

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

The portrait of Janet and Horace Keats with the spirit of the poet Christopher Brennan is brought to life by artist Dora Toovey.

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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.