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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

2001-2002
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
© Rick Amor/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Rick Amor (age 53 in 2001)

Dorothy Porter (age 47 in 2001)

Donated by

Andrea Goldsmith (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

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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.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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