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Study for "Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs Everage"
, 1969

by 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, Canberra
Gift of Timothy Fairfax AC
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Accession number: 2012.49