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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.

Marilyn Rowe, 1981

Graham Thorley

oil on canvas (frame: 147.0 cm x 131.5 cm, support: 128.0 cm x 112.0 cm)

Marilyn Rowe AM OBE (b. 1946), former prima ballerina, is Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet School. Rowe was one of 23 students (all female) in the first intake of the Australian Ballet School. At that time, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn were guesting with the Australian Ballet, which had formed in 1962. Dame Peggy van Praagh invited Rowe to join the company at the end of 1964 and she was promoted to principal at the end of 1969. Four years later, she and Kelvin Coe won silver medals at the Second International Ballet Competition in Moscow. At the end of 1980, while pregnant with the first of her two sons, Rowe lost her husband in an air crash. She went into seclusion, but when her baby was six months old, in response to militant demands from the dancers, she returned to the Ballet as an adviser to the Artistic Director. In 1982 and 1985 she received the Green Room Award for Best Female Dancer. She was Director of the Dancers' Company from 1990 to 1995, and became Director of the Ballet School in 1999.

Painted in Graham Thorley's studio in Trentham, this work dates from shortly after Rowe was widowed for the first time. The young ballerina arrived with her mother, who looked after her baby while she posed in her Giselle costume.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the family of Graham Thorley, in his memory and in tribute to Marilyn Rowe

Accession number: 2010.67

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Graham Thorley (age 60 in 1981)

Marilyn Rowe (age 35 in 1981)

Subject professions

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 both past and present.

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