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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.

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Paul Capsis

2004
Esther Erlich

oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas (support: 168.0 cm x 137.0 cm)

Paul Capsis (b. 1964), performer, was raised by his mother and grandmother in the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. Constantly bullied for his ethnicity and his effeminacy, and strictly raised a Catholic, as a teenager Capsis nonetheless became increasingly drawn to stars including Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday, Marlene Dietrich, Nina Simone and Edith Piaf. He made his professional debut in Sydney in 1988, and over the next few years performed solo shows inspired by cabaret singers of international renown. During the same period, he began appearing on television and in the theatre, and his performance in the 1998 film Head On earned him a Sydney Film Critics Award. In 2002, he won the Helpmann Award for Capsis vs. Capsis. His numerous credits since include roles in Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon (2006) for the Sydney and Adelaide Festivals, and The Threepenny Opera (2010) for the Victorian Opera Company. He won another Helpmann Award in 2006 for a production of Boulevard Delirium, a show Barrie Kosky wrote for him to perform at the Vienna Schauspielhaus in 2002. His autobiographical show Angela’s Kitchen earned him the Helpmann Awards for Best Actor and Best New Australian Work in 2012. Recently, he has worked on Broadway as the evil Stromboli in Pinocchio (2015), while in Australia he has played Quentin Crisp in the one-man show Resident Alien (2016) and the Emcee in Cabaret (2016–2017).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2017
© Esther Erlich

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

Esther Erlich (age 49 in 2004)

Paul Capsis (age 40 in 2004)

Donated by

Esther Erlich (1 portrait)

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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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