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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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Christopher Brennan

1927
Annie May Moore

carbon print photograph (sheet: 19.6 cm x 14.5 cm)

Christopher Brennan (1870–1932), poet, was born to Irish parents in Sydney. A brilliant schoolboy, destined early for the priesthood, he gained a scholarship from Cardinal Moran and went to Riverview; there, he abandoned his vocation. As a language and classics student at Sydney University he edited Hermes, fell in love with Victorian poetry, graduated with a First and a University Medal, and lost his religious faith. After a short stint teaching at St Patrick’s, Goulburn, he won a travelling scholarship to the University of Berlin, where he became convinced of the power of poetry to reclaim an ideal version of humanity. Returning to Sydney in 1894, he began cataloguing in the New South Wales Public Library, where he was to rise to second assistant librarian by 1907. Late in 1909 he was appointed an assistant lecturer in French and German at the University of Sydney. His poetic output – complex and symbolic, always more European than Australian in sensibility - for the most part declined after 1902; his biographer Axel Clark suggests that the moderately successful pro-war poems he wrote during the First World War sprang from his hostility toward his German wife and mother-in-law. After he divorced, he embarked on an affair with a younger woman; her accidental death gave rise to some of his finest poems, but his life was thrown into irrecoverable chaos. Gaining odds and ends of teaching, and supported by friends and admirers, he retrieved his Catholic faith before he died. Clark writes that ‘although he abhorred Henry Lawson as a poet and a man, the progress of their lives was hauntingly similar: promise, achievement, degeneration, disgrace, posthumous legend.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2014

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

Annie May Moore (age 46 in 1927)

Christopher Brennan (age 57 in 1927)

Subject professions

Education and research

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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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