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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

1921
Thea Proctor

lithograph on paper (sheet: 33.5 cm x 26.0 cm)

Thea Proctor (1879-1966), artist and stylesetter, trained at the Julian Ashton School before leaving Australia for London in 1903. She was to remain there, apart from a visit home in 1912–1914, until after World War I. In her early years in London, she was a friend and model for her fellow Ashton School student, George Lambert, and encountered many of the major figures of the Edwardian art world. When she returned permanently to Sydney in 1921, her art and ideas were at the forefront of contemporary art and design in Australia; her authoritative opinions on decoration, colour, interior design, flower arrangement, ballet and fashion were widely published in new journals such as The Home (for which she designed many covers) and Art in Australia. An exhibitor in the watershed Burdekin House exhibition in 1929, she was a mentor and champion for young interior designers including Marion Hall Best. Although she maintained many close friends (and adversaries), she was a lifelong singleton, living very frugally in rented accommodation, making a slender living from drawing classes, periodic exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries and commissioned drawings of Eastern Suburbs children. The National Portrait Gallery’s 2005 exhibition The World of Thea Proctor was the first large-scale survey of Proctor’s work in all mediums and periods; the publication that accompanied the exhibition comprises the first extended biography of the artist. Building upon her interest in drawing, Proctor made a study of lithography during her second period in London. From this time come the lithographs Mother and son (1915), Before rehearsal (1919) and The balcony (c. 1919), each of which features George Lambert’s sons. When she returned to Australia she briefly championed the art form. She drew this self portrait on a lithographic stone at the Fine Art Society Gallery in Melbourne to demonstrate the technique to observers. Proctor’s lithographs were deprecated by local critics and subsequently – influenced to some degree by Margaret Preston, from whom she became estranged – she turned to making the decorative woodcuts for which she is now best known.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by the Ross family in memory of Noel and Enid Eliot 2013
© Art Gallery of New South Wales

Artist and subject

Thea Proctor (age 42 in 1921)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Supported by

Lindy Ross (2 portraits supported)

Bob Ross (2 portraits supported)

Related portraits

1. Thea Proctor, c. 1896. All an unknown artist.

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.

Talking heads

About Face article

21 December 2020

In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert
Portrait of Thea Proctor, 1905 by George Lambert

The real Thea

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2015

Long after the portraitist became indifferent to her, and died, a beguiling portrait hung over its subject.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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