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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.

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.

Harold Blair

1948
Ernest Buckmaster

oil on canvas (frame: 109.0 cm x 85.5 cm, support: 101.6 cm x 78.7 cm)

Harold Blair AO (1924–1976), singer and Indigenous advocate, spent his youth on the Purga Mission, and began singing in local concerts on the canefields in the Childers area. When Marjorie Lawrence visited Brisbane on a concert tour in 1944, she urged him to take his singing further. In March 1945 he sang on Australia's Amateur Hour and gained a record number of votes. Rejected elsewhere, he was finally accepted by the Melbourne (Melba) Conservatorium of Music, gaining his diploma in 1949. Having scraped up the means to study in New York, he performed in a benefit concert in the New York Town Hall in early 1951; some months later, he appeared as a guest artist for the ABC’s Jubilee Tour of Australia. Returning to Melbourne, he worked in a department store and in 1956 began to teach part-time at the conservatorium. After spending 1959 in Europe, he became the proprietor of a service station and later of a milk bar. A member of the Aborigines’ Welfare Board in Victoria in the late 1950s, Blair was also involved in the Aborigines Advancement League, the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Commonwealth Aboriginal Arts Board and initiated the successful Aboriginal Children’s Holiday Project. In 1964 he stood to no avail as Labor candidate for Mentone; three years later he began work as a school music teacher. In 1973, three years before he died, he won praise for his performance in the opera Dalgerie, at the Sydney Opera House.

Purchased 2010
© Estate of Ernest Buckmaster

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

Ernest Buckmaster (age 51 in 1948)

Harold Blair AO (age 24 in 1948)

Subject professions

Activism

Performing arts

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency