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David Malouf
, 2012

by Rick Amor

oil on canvas (frame: 66.4 cm x 87.3 cm, support: 60.0 cm x 81.0 cm)

David Malouf AO (b.1934), author, was educated at Brisbane Grammar and the University of Queensland before leaving Australia at the age of 24. He remained abroad for a decade, teaching in England and travelling throughout Europe. After returning to Australia in 1968 he taught English at the University of Sydney and began to publish poetry – his first collection was the 1970 volume Bicycle and Other Poems. His first novel, the acclaimed Johnno, appeared in 1975. Since turning to writing full-time in 1977 Malouf has published five further books of poetry, three libretti – including an adaptation of Patrick White’s Voss (1978) for the Australian Opera – and an autobiography, 12 Edmondstone Street (1985). He is best known, however, for his novels. An Imaginary Life won the 1979 NSW Premier’s Literary Award; Fly Away Peter won the Age Book of the Year Award in 1982; The Great World won the Miles Franklin Award in 1990; Remembering Babylon was shortlisted for 1994’s Booker Prize; and The Conversations at Curlow Creek was nominated for the 1997 Miles Franklin Award. In 1998 he gave the six ABC Boyer Lectures, on the theme of ‘the making of Australian consciousness’. His non- fiction essays include On Experience (2008) and The happy life (2011). He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2008. Having divided his time between residences in Australia and Tuscany for some years, he now mostly lives in Sydney. His latest book, A First Place (2014) is a collection of essays about Australia.

Viewing the contemporary works in the National Portrait Gallery, David Malouf was struck by Rick Amor’s (b. 1948) representation of Peter Doherty. Accordingly, Amor was chosen to paint Malouf, who had long been a proposed subject for a portrait commission. The sittings for the portrait took place over five days in a hot, bare studio at the National Art School, Sydney, which was closed for the summer break. Amor aimed first, to produce a good likeness, and secondly, in a ‘world full of enormous heads’ at an understated, quiet picture of the diffident man of intellect.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with assistance from the Circle of Friends 2012
Accession number: 2012.23