Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

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.

Eric McIllree

1971
Clifton Pugh

oil on masonite (frame: 140.0 cm x 109.0 cm, support: 121.5 cm x 90.5 cm)

Eric McIllree (1914-1973) was the founder, chairman and managing director of the Australian arm of Avis Rent-A-Car, and for twelve years the owner and developer of Dunk Island. McIllree’s business skills were honed as a schoolboy at Shore, where he dealt in budgerigars, but his chief interests were cars and planes. In his early twenties, having worked as a car salesman, he opened a used-car business, the profits from which he used to establish a car rental firm, hitherto unknown in Australia. The Second World War put an end to the venture. While working as a pilot, on 19 December 1948 he was shot down by the Vietminh near Saigon, ‘the only casualty’ a pair of suede shoes he had bought the previous day in Hong Kong; the following year, again on 19 December, he crashed ‘in the shadow of the Taj Mahal’. In the postwar years he purchased 55 Avro Anson bombers, which he flew to England to sell. Other RAAF disposals aircraft he bought, including all the available Supermarine Walruses, were pressed into service with his venture Amphibious Airways, carrying native labour between plantations in New Guinea and New Britain. After several Walrus accidents, Amphibious Airways went into liquidation. In the early 1950s, again bent on establishing airport car rental facilities, he approached the Department of Civil Aviation and gained the required approval of TAA, Ansett and ANA for the establishment of Airport Car Rentals. With an eye to the international traveller, however, and finding that neither Avis nor Hertz had registered their names in Australia, he laid claim to these names himself, only afterwards negotiating a deal with Avis to the ongoing rights to the name in Australia and New Guinea in perpetuity. Avis was not established in the UK until 1960, or Europe, Africa and the Middle East until the 1960s and 1970s; meanwhile, McIllree started Avis Australia in 1955 with FJ Holdens stationed at six Australian airports and by 1971 he had rented out his millionth car. McIllree is credited as the pioneer of the ‘Fly/Drive’ concept and the first ‘International Fly/Drive’ holiday schemes. He continued to lobby government for further approval of concessions until he prevailed; at least until 1967, Avis held the sole rental concession at Australian airports. Meanwhile, in 1964 he bought Dunk Island with four associates, who soon retreated. Although he intended initially to keep the island as a personal retreat, building a vessel for big game fishing, and entertaining friends such as Harold Holt, Sean Connery and Ron and Valerie Taylor there, he oversaw the construction of limited tourist facilities.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Janice McIllree 2012
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Clifton Pugh

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

Clifton Pugh (age 47 in 1971)

Eric McIllree (age 57 in 1971)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Donated by

Janice McIllree (5 portraits)

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.

Janice Wakely
Janice Wakely
Janice Wakely
Janice Wakely

Generous Janice

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2013

Dr Sarah Engledow puts four gifts to the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection in context.

Clifton Pugh painting in the studio
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio
Clifton Pugh painting in the studio

Painting mates

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2011

Michael Desmond discusses Fred Williams' portraits of friends, artist Clifton Pugh, David Aspden and writer Stephen Murray-Smith, and the stylistic connections between his portraits and landscapes.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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 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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency