Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

Menu

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.

Painter John Brack with Professor Alex Mitchell and Sir Garfield Barwick

c. 1977
Jozef Vissel

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.2 cm, image: 35.0 cm x 28.0 cm)

John Brack (1920-1999), artist, grew up in Melbourne and studied at the National Gallery School at night while working as a junior insurance clerk. After war service he resumed his studies, and in 1949 secured a job in the National Gallery of Victoria’s Print Room, where he worked until 1951, leaving to take up the position of art master at Melbourne Grammar School. His paintings succeeded immediately; his first exhibited work, Barber’s Shop, was purchased for the NGV in 1953 as was Collins Street, 5p.m. three years later. In 1962 he became Head of the National Gallery Art School. Six years later, finally confident that he could make a living as a full-time artist, he resigned. He painted shopfronts, school yards, gardens and housing estates, nudes, office workers, ballroom dancers, jockeys, brides, drinkers, commissioned portraits and portraits of friends and family. In recent years The Bar 1954 and The Old Time 1969 have set new auction records for the sale of Australian paintings. Brack painted 35 portraits in oils. The brilliant double portrait with which he is pictured here is his largest and most ambitious; Patrick McCaughey wrote to him ‘It is a remarkable achievement to pull of the double portrait in 1978 – what an argument it makes for your “stubbornness”!’

Alexander George Mitchell (1911-1997), academic, studied English literature and language at the University of Sydney and the University of London before joining the English department of the University of Sydney, where he assumed the McCaughey Chair of Early English Literature and Language in 1947. In 1961 he became deputy vice-chancellor. Mitchell’s research into Australian English was profoundly influential, demonstrating that the speech of Australians had its own history, legitimately distinct from ‘Standard English’ or ‘Received Pronunciation’ of which, until then, it had been deemed an undesirable corruption. His books included The Pronunciation of English in Australia (1946, and revised edition 1957 with Arthur Delbridge), The Use of English (1954) and The Speech of Australian Adolescents (with Delbridge, 1965).A member of the interim council charged with planning a third university for Sydney - Macquarie University - and later vice-chair of that university’s first council, Mitchell became Macquarie’s foundation Vice-Chancellor in 1965.Mitchell saw the university grow exponentially and championed its innovative character, which fostered a broad liberal education through large multidisciplinary schools and engagement with industry, commerce and the community. He oversaw the establishment of the groundbreaking Social Sciences Resource Centre in 1974. Although he was never one of its editors, his interest in Australian English is credited with having informed the development of the Macquarie Dictionary, first published in 1981 and revised for several editions since.

The Rt Hon Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG KC (1903–97), Chief Justice of Australia from 27 April 1964 to 11 February 1981, was the longest serving Chief Justice of Australia. Barwick grew up in impoverished circumstances in the then-slum suburb of Stanmore in Sydney, but gained a scholarship to Fort Street School and took the University Medal in Law at the University of Sydney. Admitted to the bar in 1927, appointed King’s Counsel in 1941 and taking silk in 1942, he came to public attention as the prosecuting attorney in the Dobell case. During the war he defended various businesses against wartime regulations, opposing attorney general ‘Doc’ Evatt (who called him ‘Bushy Tail’) and becoming a regular before the Privy Council. Later he was Menzies’s choice to advocate the banning of the Communist Party, and he represented ASIO in the Petrov Royal Commission in 1954. In 1958 he was elected Liberal member for Parramatta; he was Attorney-General from 1958 to 1961, and Minister for External Affairs from 1961 to 1964, during which period Gough Whitlam was named in Parliament for calling him a ‘truculent runt’. In 1964 he left parliament, and was appointed a Privy Counsellor; he served as Chief Justice for the next 17 years. In this capacity he provided official advice to his friend John Kerr, confirming the legality of the Dismissal. Barwick was Chancellor of Macquarie University from 1967 to 1978; during this period he took an active interest in the design and construction of the High Court building – accordingly dubbed ‘Gar’s Mahal’ - which opened in Canberra in 1980. David Marr’s hostile biography, Barwick – his first book - was published that year. In retirement Barwick wrote Sir John Did His Duty (1983) and a personal ‘apologia’, Radical Tory (1995).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the 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 42 in 1977)

The Rt. Hon Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG KC (age 74 in 1977)

Alex Mitchell (age 66 in 1977)

John Brack (age 57 in 1977)

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.

Portrait of Tam Purves
Portrait of Tam Purves
Portrait of Tam Purves
Portrait of Tam Purves

Bonfire of the vanities

Magazine article by Stuart Purves, 2016

Australian Galleries Director Stuart Purves tells the story of two portraits by John Brack.

Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955
Self portrait 1955

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Dr Sarah Engledow explores the early life and career of John Brack.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency