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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 Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Dame Mabel Brookes

c. 1955
Sir William Dargie CBE

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’.

Gift of Rodney Davidson AO OBE 2014. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Roger Dargie and Faye Dargie

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

Sir William Dargie CBE (age 43 in 1955)

Dame Mabel Brookes (age 65 in 1955)

Donated by

Rodney Davidson AO OBE (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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency