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Self portrait
, 2006

by 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, Canberra
Gift of Dr Phillip Dutton and Valerie Dutton 2013
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2013.22