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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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George Johnston

1941
Max Dupain OBE

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 30.9 cm x 37.7 cm, image: 30.3 cm x 37.7 cm)

George Henry Johnston OBE (1912-1970), journalist and novelist, grew up in Elsternwick, a working-class suburb of Melbourne. At age 21 he became a cadet reporter at the Argus newspaper and by 1941 he had worked his way up from compiling the shipping reports to being its accredited Australian war correspondent in World War 2. Having witnessed the Japanese surrender on board USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945, Johnston returned to Australia to find himself famous. His courageous reporting from New Guinea, India, China, Burma and Italy, as well as the five books he published throughout, were vivid, exciting and acutely observed accounts of the conflict. Johnston had left a young wife and daughter in Melbourne during the war. On his return to the Argus Johnston fell in love with the beautiful and intelligent writer Charmian Clift. In 1947 Johnston divorced his first wife and married Clift. They moved to Sydney, where they had two of their three children and collaborated on an award-winning novel, High Valley, before moving to London in 1951. After three years, Johnston resigned from his job with Associated Newspapers and the family moved to the Greek Islands. Johnston, under the pseudonym Shane Martin (a conflation of the names of two of his children), wrote five detective novels, but he was frustrated in his serious literary ambitions. After several years of financial stress, heavy drinking and smoking, his marriage disintegrating and having developed tuberculosis, Johnston began, in 1962, to write the autobiographical novel that would become the Australian classic, My Brother Jack. The family returned to Australia in 1964 to the recognition Johnston craved. The following year, Clift scripted a miniseries adaptation of My Brother Jack for the ABC. Johnston continued the autobiographical trilogy through the family’s emotionally tumultuous time in London and Greece. In 1969, a month before the launch of Clean Straw for Nothing, Clift took her own life. Johnston did not quite complete the final volume, A Cartload of Clay, set at the time it was written and unsparing in its self-analysis, before he died in 1970.

Gift of Danina Dupain Anderson 2017. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.

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

Max Dupain OBE (age 30 in 1941)

George Johnston OBE (age 29 in 1941)

Donated by

Danina Dupain Anderson (34 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.

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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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