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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.

Kenneth Gillespie

2005
Dean Beletich

silver gelatin photograph, selenium toned on paper (sheet: 35.7 cm x 51.0 cm, image: 32.0 cm x 47.9 cm, frame: depth 4.2 cm)

Sir Kenneth Gillespie (1929–2010), dancer, teacher and founder of the Tasmanian Ballet, left his native Launceston at age sixteen to join the Borovansky Ballet in Melbourne. Soon a lead dancer, he performed with companies including the Royal Ballet, the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and the New York City Ballet before returning to Launceston in 1960. There he created Tasmania's first ballet studio, built behind his house in Wellington Street. He ran the Tasmanian Ballet School for many years, from which the performing ensemble known as the Tasmanian Ballet was founded in 1961. His students included Graeme Murphy, who credits him as his mentor, Michelle Hawkins, Natasha Middleton, Claire McHugh and Glenn Murray. The Tasmanian Ballet performed and toured around Australia regularly, including in many primary schools, with Gillespie involved in every aspect of all its productions from 1961. By 1975 it was a state and federally funded professional company. Gillespie was its director until he retired in 1979 and moved to Newcastle for the climate. He received a knighthood from the Order of St John of Malta and of Rhodes in 1989.

Dean Beletich sought to photograph Gillespie after seeing him at exhibition openings and events around Newcastle. At their portrait session he found him to be generous and charming, happy to recount stories about his extraordinary life. Beletich observed that from the outside, Gillespie's worker's cottage in Newcastle looked like any other.

Purchased 2015
© Dean Beletich

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

Dean Beletich (age 37 in 2005)

Sir Kenneth Gillespie (age 76 in 2005)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

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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.

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Featuring striking photographic portraits of contemporary figures from the National Portrait Gallery collection, The Look is an aesthetic treat with a lashing of je ne sais quoi.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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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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