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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.

Study for "Portrait of the artist as an evolving landscape", 1991

James Gleeson

pencil, charcoal and paper collage on paper (sheet: 38.0 cm x 51.0 cm)

James Gleeson AO was Australia's best-known surrealist artist, and from the late 1930s onwards he was a tireless supporter of Australian modern art. Deeply interested in psychology, he wrote poetry and many essays and several books on Australian art. His own art has been the subject of several major exhibitions. As a young boy he lived at Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast and much of his art work has been inspired by the beach rock pools from his youth, 'full of marvellous shapes' and 'biomorphic forms'. For Gleeson the littoral zone where sea meets land was a powerful metaphor for the interplay of the conscious and unconscious mind and of the fluid nature of existence. Gleeson reflected that 'One of the most important and constantly recurring motifs throughout my work is based on a sense of the mutability of all forms and substances. Metamorphosis has always been, for me, one of the basic facts of life. Everything takes on a form, changes, falls apart and reforms in new organisations in an endless cycle.'

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Ray Wilson OAM in memory of James Agapitos OAM 2011
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of James Gleeson

Accession number: 2011.119

Currently on display: Gallery Five (John Schaeffer Gallery)

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Artist and subject

James Gleeson (age 76 in 1991)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Geoffrey Graham, 1941 Max Dupain
Geoffrey Graham, 1941 Max Dupain
Geoffrey Graham, 1941 Max Dupain
Geoffrey Graham, 1941 Max Dupain

The mind's eye

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman, 2017

Christopher Chapman takes a trip through the doors of perception, arriving at the junction of surrealism and psychoanalysis.

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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.