Skip to main content

Coming to visit? Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

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.

Marilyn Darling AC

2010
Anne Zahalka

colour transparency on lightbox (sheet: 119.0 cm x 82.0 cm)

Marilyn Darling AC (b. 1943) is a Founding Patron of the National Portrait Gallery. Born in Brisbane, she studied science at the University of Queensland before working in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Melbourne, and undertaking postgraduate study in the Medical School of Monash University from 1973 to 1978. Though she worked as a scientist, her interests expanded to a variety of social and cultural concerns, including the Victorian Children's Aid Society, the Dame Joan Hammond Award, Spoleto Melbourne (the precursor of the Melbourne Festival) and the Victorian State Opera. By the mid-1980s she was a major patron of art, music and health. In 1989 she married L Gordon Darling AC CMG (1921–2015), whose ambition to create a National Portrait Gallery in Australia soon became the couple's joint project. Having sought advice from the directors of the National Portrait Galleries in London and Washington DC, they convened the exhibition Uncommon Australians: Towards an Australian Portrait Gallery 'to show people in various parts of the country a sample of what a National Portrait Gallery would do for Australia.' The exhibition toured nationally in 1992–1993 and proved the impetus for the institution's foundation. Marilyn Darling was Chair of the Board of the Gallery from 2000 until 2008, and under her leadership the institution grew from a small gallery located in Old Parliament House and reliant on artworks loaned from other collections, to a significant national institution housed in a dedicated building and with a growing collection of its own. Marilyn Darling is the Chair of the Gordon Darling Foundation, Melbourne, and a member of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia Foundation.

Since 1998 she has funded the acquisition of many works for the collection, including some of the Gallery's most innovative commissioned portraits. These include Ah Xian’s glazed ceramic bust of Dr John Yu (2004); Brook Andrew's monumental screenprint collage of Professor Marcia Langton (2009); and the Victorian Tapestry Workshop's portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (2000). When it came to having her own portrait taken, Darling recollected in 2015 that she 'hadn't really given any thought to what I would want. I was always thinking about other portraits.' In keeping with Mrs Darling's wish that the portrait should show the National Portrait Gallery building, Anne Zahalka photographed her in the light-filled entry hall named for her husband. The sculpture in the left background – James Angus' Geo face distributor (2009) – is among the many acquisitions enabled by the Darlings; to the sitter's right is an example of the floral arrangements that always feature in the Gordon Darling Hall, and which have been funded by Mrs Darling since the new National Portrait Gallery building opened in 2008.

Commissioned with funds provided by Tim Fairfax AC 2010
© Anne Zahalka

Audio description icon

Audio description

2 minutes 33 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Anne Zahalka (age 53 in 2010)

Marilyn Darling AC (age 67 in 2010)

Supported by

Tim Fairfax AC (53 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.

Marilyn Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Marilyn Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Marilyn Darling interview video: 2 minutes
Marilyn Darling interview video: 2 minutes

Marilyn Darling

by Anne Zahalka

Portrait story

Marilyn Darling talks about the creation of her portrait, and the photographic process.

Marilyn Darling AC
Marilyn Darling AC
Marilyn Darling AC
Marilyn Darling AC

Support Crew

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman, 2011

Portraits of philanthropists in the collection honour their contributions to Australia and acknowledge their support of the National Portrait Gallery.

© 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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency