Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Self portrait

1909
Bess Norriss Tait

watercolour and bodycolour on cardboard (frame: 44.3 cm x 30.0 cm, support: 29.5 cm x 15.5 cm)

Bess Norriss Tait, artist, was born in Melbourne and had her first art lessons, aged ten, from the landscape painter, Jane Sutherland. Between 1897 and 1901 she studied at the National Gallery School and began exhibiting with the Victorian Art Society. At the instigation of a patron, she sent examples of her miniatures to a London expert, who encouraged her to further her career in England. In London from 1905, she studied at the Slade School, became a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters and in 1908 achieved the first of her many inclusions in exhibitions such as those of the Royal Academy and the New Salon, Paris. She married Australian theatre entrepreneur James Nevin Tait in London in 1908 and through him developed associations with the community of creative Australian expats that included Percy Grainger, Nellie Melba and Ada Crossley. She returned to Australia briefly in 1910, completing a number of portrait commissions here and holding exhibitions in Sydney and Melbourne from which works were acquired by the National Galleries of Victoria and New South Wales. She returned to London in 1911 and settled in Chelsea, where she died in January 1939.

Purchased with funds provided by Barbara and Jim Higgins 2010

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

Bess Norriss Tait (age 31 in 1909)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Supported by

Barbara Higgins (5 portraits supported)

Jim Higgins (5 portraits supported)

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
Self portrait
Self portrait
Self portrait

Small worlds

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2010

Bess Norriss Tait created miniature watercolour portraits full of character and life.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© 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