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Father Peter Steele, 2009

Kristin Headlam

oil on canvas (support: 60.0 cm x 50.0 cm)

Father Peter Steele AM (1939-2012), poet and Jesuit Provincial, grew up in Perth, destined from youth for the priesthood. Educated by the Christian Brothers, upon graduation from high school he moved to Melbourne, where he took up a Jesuit novitiate at Watsonia. Five years later he went to study English at the University of Melbourne, where he was taught by Vincent Buckley. As he progressed to his ordination in 1970, he tutored in the English department; he completed his PhD on Jonathan Swift while rector of Campion College, Kew. After his work on Swift was published, he became head of the English department. In 1985, he was appointed Provincial of the Australian Jesuits. At the end of his provincialate, he took up a personal chair in English at the university in 1993. Until his death he was resident scholar at Newman College, where he preached for more than twenty years (but rarely for more than five minutes at a session). Some of his sermons were published in the collections Bread for the Journey (2002) and A Local Habitation: Poems and Homilies (2010). He also published several volumes of poems and literary essays. The Martin D’Arcy lectures, which he gave at Oxford, were later published as The Autobiographical Passion: Studies in the Self on Show (1989) and his poems are included in many anthologies. He was close friends with the poets Seamus Heaney and Peter Porter, as well as Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Shortly before he died in 2012, a great company of colleagues and friends assembled at Newman for a launch of his last book, Braiding the Voices: Essays in Poetry.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2015

Accession number: 2015.35

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Kristin Headlam (age 56 in 2009)

Peter Steele (age 70 in 2009)

Subject professions



Related portraits

1. Chris Wallace-Crabbe, 2011. All Kristin Headlam.
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