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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.

Dr Edward MacMahon

1959
Sir William Dobell OBE

oil on masonite (frame: 102.3 cm x 93.5 cm, support: 87.0 cm x 73.0 cm)

Edward MacMahon CBE (1904–1987), surgeon, studied medicine at the University of Sydney and completed his residency at Sydney Hospital. After working at the Woolwich War Memorial Hospital in London, he returned to Sydney to take up an appointment at St Vincent's Hospital in 1933. Over his career he was also senior honorary consultant general surgeon at Lewisham and the Mater Misericordiae hospital on the North Shore, where he often performed operations for disadvantaged patients on Friday nights and was much-loved by the resident Sisters of Mercy.

An avid collector, MacMahon came to know William Dobell after accepting one of his paintings as payment from an impecunious patient. In 1957 Dobell was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and in 1958 MacMahon performed two difficult operations on him. The men spent a lot of time together while Dobell recovered at St. Vincent's, during which period Dobell started to paint MacMahon's portrait. It won Dobell his third Archibald Prize, in 1959. 'Dr MacMahon is an enormous person. I owe everything to him', said the artist, who was a regular in the doctor’s family circle for the rest of his life.

Gift of the MacMahon family in affectionate memory of Edward MacMahon and William Dobell 2015. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© William Dobell/Copyright Agency, 2022

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 Dobell OBE (age 60 in 1959)

Dr Edward MacMahon CBE (age 55 in 1959)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Donated by

Edwina O'Donnell (1 portrait)

Elizabeth Meyer (1 portrait)

Anne Finnerty (1 portrait)

Tom MacMahon (1 portrait)

Mary MacMahon (1 portrait)

William MacMahon (1 portrait)

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

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Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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