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Neil Armfield
, 2010

by Adam Cullen

oil on canvas (support: 153 cm x 152.7 cm)

Neil Armfield AO (b. 1955), theatre, film and opera director, became co-artistic director of Sydney’s Nimrod Theatre Company in 1979. After a stint in Adelaide, where he directed the premiere of Patrick White’s Signal Driver – dedicated to Armfield – he returned to Sydney in 1985 to become one of the original shareholders in the Belvoir Street Theatre. As artistic director of Company B from 1994 to 2010, his diverse, vibrant productions included Cloudstreet, The Small Poppies, The Alchemist, Exit the King, Keating! The Musical, The Book of Everything and Diary of a Madman. He directed ten operas for Opera Australia and productions for eight overseas opera companies. In 2006 he directed the film Candy, starring Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush, the latter a regular collaborator with the director. His Broadway production of Exit the King, starring Rush and Susan Sarandon (in her first Broadway appearance since 1972), garnered excellent reviews in 2009. Having directed Wagner’s Ring Cycle, a joint venture of Opera Australia and Houston Grand Opera staged in Melbourne in 2013, in 2015 he returned to film with Holding the Man and the stage with King Lear, starring Rush, for the Sydney Theatre Company. Along with mutltitudinous theatre awards, Armfield has two honorary doctorates. He is currently joint artistic director of the Adelaide Festival.

Adam Cullen won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of actor David Wenham in 2000. He painted Armfield with his constant companion, his Labrador, Grace, who died in 2015. Although he made scores of paintings of demons, animals, and demonic animals, Cullen was a finalist in the Archibald Prize eleven times. His portrait subjects included Nelson Woss and Koko, producer and star respectively of the film Red Dog (2011), Margaret Throsby, Edmund Capon, Mikey Robins, Chopper Read and David Wenham. He also painted Mary Mackillop, Ned Kelly and Redmond Barry.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned 2010
Accession number: 2010.26.1