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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.

Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955

William Dargie

oil on canvas (frame: 124.5 cm x 99.0 cm, support: 101.5 cm x 76.5 cm)

Dame Mabel Brookes (1890-1975), charity worker and social campaigner, grew up in lonely privilege in Victoria. Having been presented at court in London, in 1911 she married St Kilda-born Norman Brookes, the first Australian and the first left-hander to win Wimbledon, whose position with the Red Cross took them to Egypt in World War 1. There, she organised nurses’ canteens, rest homes and concert parties. Back in Melbourne, where the couple lived for the rest of their lives, she wrote a few novels and became involved with the Children’s Hospital Committee. In 1923 she began her 46-year term as president of the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and in 1926 she took on her 25-year presidency of the Animal Welfare League. She was also president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and involved with the Anglican Babies’ Home. During World War 2 she was active in the establishment of rest and recreation facilities for service personnel. Having seen her two daughters married in glittering style (40 000 spectators are said to have seen her first daughter, Cynthia, emerge from her marriage to Melbourne’s first bachelor Lord Mayor, Harold Gengoult Smith) she began writing history books. She had a substantial collection of Napoleonana; she purchased the land on which he had been incarcerated for the French government, and as a consequence was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1960. When she died, Sir Robert Menzies paid tribute to her ‘beautiful organising mind’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Rodney Davidson AO OBE 2014
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Roger Dargie

Accession number: 2014.18

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

William Dargie (age 43 in 1955)

Dame Mabel Brookes (age 65 in 1955)

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.

Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie
Dame Mabel Brookes, c. 1955 William Dargie

The hands have it

Magazine article by Angus Trumble, 2016

Angus Trumble treats the gallery’s collection with a dab hand.

Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor
Professor Peter Doherty, 2001 Rick Amor

The Changing Face of the Scientist

Magazine article by Elizabeth Finlay, 2003

Scientists tend to conjure up images of men in white coats in labs but this is just one stereotype in an evolving history of how we have perceived scientists, and how their profession has been understood over the years.

Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie
Self portrait, late 1930s William Dargie

Sir William Dargie CBE

Magazine article by Magda Keaney, 2003

Sir William Dargie, painter and eight times winner of the Archibald Prize for portraiture, died in Melbourne on July 26, 2003, aged 91.

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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.