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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.

Study for "Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs Everage"

1969
John Brack

pencil on paper (frame: 82.5 cm x 105.0 cm, sheet: 51.5 cm x 70.5 cm)

Barry Humphries AO CBE (b. 1934), actor, writer and artist, is the world’s all-time most successful solo theatrical performer. After studying law for two years, Humphries joined the Melbourne Theatre Company. In 1955 he created his archetypes of suburban mediocrity: Mrs Edna Everage, a Moonee Ponds mother and housewife, her longsuffering husband Norm, and the washed-out, ruminative Sandy Stone. From the late 1950s Humphries performed in his own one-man shows in Australia, Britain, Europe and the US, and Edna Everage dilated with increasing flamboyance in shows including Housewife, Super-star; Edna, the Spectacle; Dame Edna the Royal Tour; and Eat Pray Laugh!, which Humphries announced would be her last. In 2000 Humphries won a Special Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Theatre World Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award. He was the subject of the National Portrait Gallery’s first large-scale biographical exhibition in 2002; the following year, he gained an honorary doctorate from the University of Melbourne. His many books include – unusually – two different autobiographies, More Please (1992) and My Life as Me (2002) as well as an autobiography of Edna Everage, My Gorgeous Life (1997) in which the meeting between Humphries and Everage is described in detail.

John Brack (1920-1999), an incisive satirist of Menzies-era suburban aspirations, painted Mrs Everage in a period in which Barry Humphries was experiencing a series of personal vicissitudes. In Brack’s painting, which is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mrs Everage wears a lime-green dress and a hot-pink coat made of the Thai silk favoured by bourgeois housewives of the time.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Timothy Fairfax AC 2012
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Helen Brack

Artist and subject

John Brack (age 49 in 1969)

Barry Humphries (age 35 in 1969)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Tim Fairfax AC (1 portrait)

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
Portrait of Tam Purves
Portrait of Tam Purves
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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.

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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 National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency