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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.

Desiderius Orban (at 101 years of age), 1985

John Caldwell

mixed media on archival mount board (sheet: 144.8 cm x 94.8 cm, frame: 148.7 cm x 98.6 cm depth 3.7 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Desiderius Orban OBE (1884-1986) taught himself to paint while a student at the university of Budapest. Following compulsory military service with the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1905, he moved to Paris where he briefly studied at the Académie Julian and was a member of a circle of artists that included Matisse and Picasso. He returned to Budapest the following year to become nucleus of a group called Keresők (The Seekers), which evolved into the Eights. The group introduced cubism and fauvism to Hungarians. After war service, Orban exhibited in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary, and established the Budapest Arts and Crafts Academy. Forced to flee Nazism in 1939, when he was 55, he migrated with his wife and son to Sydney, where he worked as a textile designer and printer before holding his first show in 1943. That year he established an art school, in which he inspired students including Margo Lewers, Judy Cassab and John Olsen. Orban is credited with opening up new avenues of artistic freedom in mid-twentieth century Sydney. The public benefited from his tutelage in summer schools and via ABC radio, and from his books A Layman’s Guide to Creative Art (1968), Understanding Art (1968) and What is Art All About? (1975). In 1975, Orban was awarded his OBE for his services to The Arts and in 1984, while still painting at the age of 100, he received the honorific title: Doctor of Letters (in Art) by the University of New England. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and all Australian state galleries.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2017

Accession number: 2017.152

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Caldwell (age 43 in 1985)

Desiderius Orban (age 101 in 1985)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

John Caldwell (2 portraits)

Related portraits

1. Professor Ralph Blacket, 1994. All John Caldwell.

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell
Miranda Otto, 1997 Montalbetti+Campbell

Eye to eye

Previous exhibition, 2019

Eye to Eye is a summer Portrait Gallery Collection remix arranged by degree of eye contact – from turned away with eyes closed all the way through to right-back-at-you – as we explore artists’ and subjects’ choices around the direction of the gaze.

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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.