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John Schaeffer AO - art collector and philanthropist, 2014

Evert Ploeg

oil on canvas (support: 152.0 cm x 152.0 cm)

John Schaeffer AO (b. 1940), businessman, connoisseur and philanthropist, enabled the National Portrait Gallery to buy John Webber’s Portrait of Captain James Cook RN in 2000. Schaeffer came to Australia in 1960 from Holland and began working in suburban Woolworths stores. In the early 1970s, when his store’s cleaner resigned, Schaeffer took on his business, which employed 25. Over time, he built up the commercial cleaning and security company Tempo, which peaked at about 23,000 employees before its collapse in the recession of the early 2000s. From the mid-1980s, Schaeffer bought major works by English Pre Raphaelite artists; loans from his collection underpinned several major Australian and international exhibitions. In 2003, while a member of the National Portrait Gallery’s board, Schaeffer donated George Lambert’s bravura Self-portrait with gladioli from his own collection. John Webber’s portrait of Cook – secured against intense international competition, with half the funds donated by John Schaeffer and Robert Oatley, and half by the Australian government – contributed most persuasively to the establishment of Australia’s National Portrait Gallery as a permanent institution in purpose-built premises by 2008. Schaeffer is also a major benefactor of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and the University of Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Harold Mitchell AC

Accession number: 2015.119

Currently on display: Gallery Six (Tim Fairfax Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Evert Ploeg (age 51 in 2014)

Mr John Schaeffer AO

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