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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.

The black coat: Lily Brett, 1989

David Rankin

oil on canvas (frame: 53.5 cm x 41.0 cm, support: 51.0 cm x 38.0 cm)

Lily Brett (b. 1946) is a New York-based novelist, essayist, and poet. She was born to survivors of Auschwitz who brought her to Melbourne with them when she was two. In her twenties, Brett worked as a journalist on the music magazine Go-Set, and on Uptight, a television pop-music program. In the summer of 1967 she travelled to the USA to cover the Monterey International Pop Festival, then to the UK before returning to Australia. In 1989 she moved to New York with her second husband, painter David Rankin, and her three children. The following year she published her first novel, Things Could be Worse (1990). Just like that (1994) won the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and her best-selling 2001 novel, Too Many Men, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. She has published seven volumes of poetry, several of them on the theme of the Holocaust; three collections of essays; and six novels, the latest Lola Bensky (2012), about a child of Auschwitz survivors who works as a music reporter.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Dr Gene Sherman AM and Brian Sherman AM 2012
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© David Rankin

Accession number: 2012.221

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

David Rankin (age 43 in 1989)

Lily Brett (age 43 in 1989)

Donated by

Brian Sherman (4 portraits)

Dr Gene Sherman AM (4 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.

Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti & Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti & Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti & Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti & Campbell

Eye to eye

Previous exhibition, 2019

Eye to Eye is a summer Portrait Gallery Collection remix arranged by degree of eye contact – from turned away with eyes closed all the way through to right-back-at-you – as we explore artists’ and subjects’ choices around the direction of the gaze.

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.

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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.