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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.

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Therese Desmond

1919-1920
James Burnside

watercolour on paper (sheet: 27.6 cm x 25.1 cm)

Therese Desmond (1902–1961), radio and stage actress, was born Mary Long in London and came to Australia as a teenaged orphan at the end of World War 1. She studied with the actor-manager Duncan Macdougall, who had established Sydney’s Playbox Society in 1923. At the Playbox Theatre on Rowe Street in 1925, Desmond appeared in the leading role in Zola’s Therese Raquin. Through the Playbox, she met the English-born actor Teddy Howell, whom she married after acting for a year in Hobart. Desmond’s stage career burgeoned in the early 1930s with performances in The Seagull, Hedda Gabler and Othello for the Playbox and Independent Theatres, and later for the Experimental Theatre, of which she was co-director with Howell. However, by 1936 Desmond and Howell were household names through their starring roles in Fred and Maggie Everybody, which first aired on ABC radio in 1932. Written and produced by the couple, it became Australia’s longest-running comedy radio series, broadcast on more than 50 stations at its peak. Desmond appeared in many other plays and drama series, among them Coronets of England (1937–1943). During the 1940s and 1950s she was involved in production of radio programs including Hester’s Diary and Dr Paul, which aired for 22 years. In 1947, with Howell and their daughter, Madeleine, she was a founding member of the Radio Players.

This portrait of the young Therese Desmond is by her grandfather, with whom she emigrated.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Madeleine Howell 2013

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

James Burnside

Therese Desmond (age 17 in 1919)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Madeleine Hill (1 portrait)

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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