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Ben Chifley

by Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 39.0 cm x 31.5 cm, image: 38.5 cm x 31.5 cm)

Max Dupain OBE set up his photography studio in Sydney in 1934. Through the 1930s he took portraits and advertising shots, photographed ballet dancers and musicians for the ABC and gained exposure in the lifestyle magazine The Home. In the 1950s he turned increasingly to architectural photography, and from 1958 to 1973 he documented the construction of the Sydney Opera House. During the same period he began recording historic properties for the National Trust, and Canberra’s new buildings for the NCDC. In 1975 the touring exhibition Max Dupain - A Retrospective 1930-1975 brought Dupain’s name to the attention of the wide public, and turned The Sunbaker, taken nearly 40 years earlier, into a definitive Australian image.

Joseph Benedict Chifley (1885-1951) was the 16th prime minister of Australia, from 1945 to 1949, and the last Labor prime minister before Gough Whitlam. His sudden death in 1951 overshadowed the celebration of the first fifty years of Federation. He lay in state in Kings Hall, Old Parliament House before being buried in Bathurst. Because Ben Chifley, like John Curtin, died in office, few portraits of him exist. The National Portrait Gallery has no portrait of Curtin. Posthumous portraits are not commissioned by the Gallery, and only a handful – including John Webber’s portrait of James Cook, and William Dargie’s portrait of Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm - have ever been acquired.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Danina Anderson, daughter of Max Dupain 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2017.25