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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.

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

Accession number: 2017.103

Currently not on display

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Esther Erlich

Paul Capsis (age 40 in 2004)

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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.