Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage visits to the Gallery, so please book ahead.

Menu

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.

Robert Rooney, self portrait December 1978, 1978 (printed 2012)

Robert Rooney

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 24.0 cm x 35.2 cm, image: 20.0 cm x 30.5 cm)

Robert Rooney (1937-2017), painter, conceptual artist and photographer, studied at Swinburne Technical college from 1954 to 1957. Between 1961 and 1966 he ‘slowly and systematically eliminated the figure’ from his paintings. In between his Slippery seal (1967) and Canine capers (1969) series, in which he used brightly coloured cut-outs on the back of Kellogg’s boxes as stencils, he was represented in The Field. Soon after he made his Superknits series, hard-edged abstractions, ‘absurdly’ based on knitting patterns. He studied at the Phillip Institute from 1972 to 1973; by 1978, his work was the subject of survey exhibitions at the NGV and the Art Gallery of New South Wales; with hindsight, it has become clear that although Rooney’s work ‘employs the visual vocabulary of colour-field painting, it is in fact closer in intent to pop and conceptual art’. From 1980 to 1982 he was art critic for the Age; for the next eighteen years he held the same position at the Australian. Rooney exhibited at Pinocotheca and then Tolarno Gallery between 1960 and 2006. The Monash Univeristy Museum of Art retrospective From the Homefront: Robert Rooney Works 1953-88, held in 1990, was accompanied by a catalogue essay by Philip Brophy. Since then, Rooney’s hand-painted acrylic pictures have been based on illustrations in little-known children’s books or concerned with artworks made by children themselves, though he explains that it is not his aim to draw or paint like a child; rather, his interest is in ‘modern Art (or Modernism) and childhood, or, if you like, the early childhood of Modernism.’ His recent exhibitions at Tolarno include Balletomania (2005) and Le Rire. In 2010-2011 the National Gallery of Victoria presented Endless Present: Robert Rooney and Conceptual Art, featuring Rooney’s photographs in the context of his comprehensive collection of Australian and international conceptual art, much of it gifted to the NGV.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012
© Estate of Robert Rooney

Accession number: 2012.109

Currently not on display

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Robert Rooney (age 41 in 1978)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.