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Untitled #21/09 (after Ricci, 1700; featuring Matthew Mitcham)
, 2009

by Ross Watson

oil on board (frame: 112.0 cm x 98.1 cm, sight: 89.1 cm x 75.0 cm)

Matthew Mitcham OAM (b. 1988) won the gold medal in the 10m platform diving event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Originally a trampolinist, he competed at the World Junior Championships in 1999 and 2001 and won the double mini event. Spotted by an Australian Institute of Sport diving coach, he began diving training while continuing his jumping. In 2008 he won the 1m, 3m and 10m individual events at the Australian National Championships and the Diving Grand Prix in Florida. In Beijing he fared poorly in the 3m springboard event, and entered the final round of the 10m in second place, 34 points behind. However, his final dive earned the highest single-dive score in Olympic history and he became the first Australian male to win an Olympic gold medal in diving since 1924. Mitcham was one of fewer than a dozen openly gay athletes in Beijing, out of a total of approximately 11 000 competitors. Twists and Turns, an autobiography that describes his many vicissitudes, was published in 2012; it has since been adapted into a cabaret show, performed by Mitcham himself. In 2016 he announced he was retiring from diving to concentrate on his entertainment career; he was a finalist on Dancing with the Stars in 2015 and his second stage show, Under the Covers, premiered in 2017.

Ross Watson has often introduced contemporary figures into copies of paintings by old masters. The portrait of Mitcham, part of a series, is based on The fall of Phaeton, painted in 1700 by Sebastiano Ricci.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2010
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2010.78