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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.

Sir Robert Helpmann

c. 1965 (printed 2015)
Jozef Vissel

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 30.4 cm x 40.5 cm, image: 25.7 cm x 30.5 cm)

Sir Robert Helpmann CBE (1909–1986) was a dancer, actor and choreographer. The son of a sheep farmer and a frustrated actress, Helpmann grew up in Mount Gambier, South Australia. At the age of 11 he made his stage debut, dressed in a tutu, at a charity concert in front of Dame Nellie Melba. Soon after, he joined Anna Pavlova's touring company and went to England where by 1934 he was lead male dancer at the Vic-Wells ballet (later Sadler's Wells). He produced and performed there until 1950, with partners including Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. Renowned for his dramatic and innovative ballet choreography, Helpmann was artistic co-director of the Australian Ballet from 1965 to 1976; during this period, in 1965, he was Australian of the Year, and in 1974, King of Moomba. He appeared in twelve films, including The Red Shoes, which he also choreographed. Renowned for flamboyance and wit, he was still dancing two months before his death in the role of the Red King in Checkmate.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Jozef Vissel 2015
© Jozef Vissel

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

Jozef Vissel (age 30 in 1965)

Sir Robert Helpmann CBE (age 56 in 1965)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Jozef Vissel (13 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

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.

Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia
Sidney Nolan, Western Australia

Cultural kaleidoscope

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

The complex connections between four creative Australians; Patrick White, Sidney Nolan, Robert Helpmann and Peter Sculthorpe.

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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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