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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.

Dorothy Porter, 2001-02

Rick Amor

oil on canvas (frame: 39.5 cm x 34.5 cm, support: 35.5 cm x 30.5 cm)

Dorothy Porter (1954–2008), poet and writer, grew up in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, graduated from the University of Sydney in 1975 and taught creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her first book of poetry, Little Hoodlum, was published in 1975; subsequent volumes included Bison (1979), The Night Parrot (1984) and Driving too Fast (1989). In the early 1990s she wrote two novels for young adults. Akhenaten, the first of the narratives in verse for which Porter was particularly renowned, was published in 1992. The following year, she moved to Melbourne to live with the novelist Andrea Goldsmith, who was her partner for the rest of her life. Unusually, Porter managed to make a living from poetry. The Monkey’s Mask (1994) staked out the demotic verse novel as a territory all Porter’s own. It was named the Age Book of the Year for Poetry, won the National Book Council Award for Poetry and was the Braille Book of the Year; widely translated and published overseas, it was adapted for stage and radio and made into a film starring Kelly McGillis and Susie Porter. Subsequent verse novels, What a Piece of Work (1999) and Wild Surmise (2002) were both shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award (in 2003 both Porter and Goldsmith were shortlisted – each for a book that she had dedicated to the other). Porter’s last verse novel was El Dorado (2007). Having written two libretti, and lyrics for music by Paul Grabowsky, at the time of her death from complications arising from breast cancer she was collaborating with Tim Finn on a rock opera. The Bee Hut was published posthumously in 2009, as was her essay On Passion; finally, Goldsmith selected a volume of her Love Poems (2010).

Rick Amor (b. 1948), unacquainted with Porter, first saw her on television. Intrigued that she didn’t smile, he made a drawing of her as he sat and watched her talk; his interest in her increased when he read The Monkey’s Mask. Soon after, at a book- signing, he asked if she would like to sit to him. His austere painting, showing Porter uncharacteristically quiet and still, is a tiny one that forces the viewer to come in close to the sitter’s forbidding face. The women agreed that the portraitist had made Dorothy look older than she was. It was some time before the painting came to seem, to Andrea Goldsmith, to show her partner as she might have looked, had she not died.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Andrea Goldsmith 2011
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2011.2

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Rick Amor (age 53 in 2001)

Dorothy Porter (age 47 in 2001)

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.

David Malouf video: 4 minutes and 11 seconds
David Malouf video: 4 minutes and 11 seconds
David Malouf video: 4 minutes and 11 seconds
David Malouf video: 4 minutes and 11 seconds

David Malouf

'The person who is the writer'

Portrait story

Australian author David Malouf discusses the creation of his portrait by artist Rick Amor.

Interview with Rick Amor and Shane Maloney video: 8 minutes
Interview with Rick Amor and Shane Maloney video: 8 minutes
Interview with Rick Amor and Shane Maloney video: 8 minutes
Interview with Rick Amor and Shane Maloney video: 8 minutes

Shane Maloney and Rick Amor

'Big canvas, small head'

Portrait story

Artist Rick Amor and author Shane Maloney relate divergent experiences of the creation of Shane's portrait.

Dorothy Porter, 2001-02 Rick Amor
Dorothy Porter, 2001-02 Rick Amor
Dorothy Porter, 2001-02 Rick Amor
Dorothy Porter, 2001-02 Rick Amor

Beautiful bones

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Sarah Engledow reflects on the shared life and writing of Dorothy Porter and Andrea Goldsmith.

We would like to thank our partners.
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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.