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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.

Sketch for portrait of John Perceval, c. 1962

John Brack

charcoal pencil on paper (sheet: 50.6 cm x 38.0 cm)

John Perceval AO (1923-2000) was a painter and ceramic artist. Early on, along with Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker, he was part of a loose group of largely self-taught Australian artists, now known as the Angry Penguins, who rebelled against the conservatism of the art establishment. In the 1940s he went to work as a potter and sculptor with the Boyd family at Murrumbeena. He married Mary Boyd, younger sister of Arthur, and three of their four children became painters. Joint winner of the Wynne Prize for landscape art in 1960, Perceval remains known as one of the leading Australian landscape painters of the 1950s and 1960s. His ceramic work from the same period includes a celebrated series of representations of angels. In the 1980s his long-term alcoholism saw Perceval consigned to a psychiatric hospital. During his time there his old 'comrades of the canvas' would take him out painting, paying for his materials and models. By 1988 he had moved to an elderly persons' hostel in Kew, and was able to show some new work at a South Yarra gallery. The National Gallery of Victoria held a large retrospective of his work in 1990. Before he died, his painting Scudding Swans 1959 set the record for the highest price for a painting by a living Australian artist.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Helen Brack 2012

Accession number: 2012.19

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Brack (age 42 in 1962)

John Perceval AO (age 39 in 1962)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Helen Brack (2 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.

Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack
Portrait of Tam Purves, 1958 John Brack

Bonfire of the vanities

Magazine article by Stuart Purves, 2016

Australian Galleries Director Stuart Purves tells the story of two portraits by John Brack.

Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the early life and career of John Brack.

Portrait of Kym Bonython/Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap, 1963-66 John Brack
Portrait of Kym Bonython/Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap, 1963-66 John Brack
Portrait of Kym Bonython/Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap, 1963-66 John Brack
Portrait of Kym Bonython/Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap, 1963-66 John Brack

Somewhere to hang your cap

Magazine article by Beatrice Thompson, 2007

A pair of portraits by John Brack; Portrait of Kym Bonython and Portrait of Mr Bonython's speedway cap combine to create a quirky depiction of their subject.

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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.