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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.

Self portrait, 2006

Judy Cassab

oil on board (frame: 60.0 cm x 53.0 cm, support: 42.5 cm x 37.0 cm)

Judy Cassab AO CBE (1920-2015) was one of Australia's best-loved, most successful and prolific portrait painters. Born in Vienna, she studied in Prague and at the Budapest Academy before adopting false papers and 'going underground' to escape the persecution of Hungarian Jews. After the war, she and her husband reunited and came to Australia. Finding that she could not make a living through painting, she took up teaching because her husband would not let her work in a factory. She hardly spoke English and was disoriented by the strange light and seasons, but found inspiration for a more abstract style of painting in the landscape of the Northern Territory, to which she repeatedly returned. Gradually, she made friends with artists such as Jeffrey Smart, Stanislaus Rapotec and Desiderius Orban. In 1961 she became the first woman in twenty years to win the Archibald Prize, with a portrait of Rapotec. She won again with a portrait of her friend and fellow artist, Margo Lewers, in 1968. The Art Gallery of New South Wales describes these portraits as 'strong paintings which were considered to be the first serious attempts among Archibald entries to bring portraiture into the modern idiom.' Cassab was an Archibald finalist 41 times, and often featured in the Wynne and Sulman Prizes. She held more than 60 solo exhibitions during her long career, and among her many awards were an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney, and the 1996 Nita B Kibble Award for her published diaries.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Dr Phillip Dutton and Valerie Dutton 2013
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2013.22

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Judy Cassab (age 86 in 2006)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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.

Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab
Self-portrait, 1962 by Judy Cassab

Flesh, figure and rock

Magazine article by Aimee Board, 2018

Aimee Board traces Judy Cassab’s path to the Australian outback, arriving at the junction of inspiration and abstraction.

Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab

Vintage Cassab

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

The oil portrait of Sir Frank Packer KBE by Judy Cassab was gifted to the National Portrait Gallery in 2006.

Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab
Sir Frank Packer KBE, 1956 Judy Cassab

Judy Cassab

The artist's diary

Previous exhibition, 2013

The artist's diary profiles six decades of Cassab's work, from the early portrait commissions of the 1950s to later paintings that have helped confirm her eminent place in the canon of Australian portraiture.

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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.