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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.

Alan Marshall, 1971

Noel Counihan

oil on masonite (frame: 70.0 cm x 93.0 cm, support: 68.5 cm x 91.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Alan Marshall AM OBE (1902-84), writer, began life in Victoria’s Western District. At the age of six he contracted infantile paralysis (polio) which left him permanently disabled. When he was a teenager his family moved to Melbourne, where he wrote with great dedication from the early 1920s and worked as an accountant at a shoe factory from 1930 to 1935. In 1933 he won the first of his three Australian Literary Society Short Story Awards. At last, in 1934, one of his stories was published; from then on he wrote for Worker’s Voice, the Communist Review and the Left Review; Smith’s Weekly, the Bulletin, ABC Weekly, Bohemia and Meanjin. He edited the anti-fascist review Point and was president of the Victorian Writers’ League; though he never joined the Communist Party, he attracted the interest of ASIO immediately upon its formation in 1949. These Are My People, stories he collected while travelling with his wife Olive in a horse-drawn caravan through Victoria, was published in 1944; his encounters with Aboriginal people on two trips north were published as Ourselves Writ Strange in 1948. During the 1950s he wrote a regular advice column for the Argus. The vicissitudes and triumphs of his childhood are detailed in his best-known, autobiographical work, I Can Jump Puddles (1955), the first volume of a trilogy. The book sold more than 3 million copies and was translated into many languages; it was made into an award-winning film in Czechoslovakia in 1970 and an Australian television series in 1981. Living in the artists’ enclave of Eltham from 1955, Marshall continued to write prolifically, including popular tales of the imaginary Speewah station, but his autobiographical works gradually darkened in tone until his friend and publisher Frank Cheshire refused to bring out Hammers Over the Anvil (which eventually appeared in 1975). Marshall was made OBE in 1972, received the Soviet Order of Friendship in 1977 and was made AM in 1981. Late in life he worked on projects highlighting various challenges confronting people with disabilities. He is commemorated in the annual Alan Marshall Award for Literature, the award for children’s literature in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the annual Alan Marshall Award in Eltham Shire, Victoria.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Barrie and Jenny Hadlow 2015

Accession number: 2015.45

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Noel Counihan (age 58 in 1971)

Alan Marshall AM OBE (age 69 in 1971)

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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.

Self-portrait, 1973 by Noel Counihan
Self-portrait, 1973 by Noel Counihan
Self-portrait, 1973 by Noel Counihan
Self-portrait, 1973 by Noel Counihan

Of jumpers and river gums, red

Magazine article by Diana O'Neil, 2016

Diana O’Neil on Noel Counihan’s vivid 1971 portrait of Alan Marshall.

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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.