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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.

Harold Holt

Louis Kahan

graphite on paper (sheet: 55.2 cm x 38.0 cm)

Louis Kahan was born in Russia to Jewish parents, and grew up in Vienna, where he trained as a tailor. At 20 he went to Paris, where he worked for the couturier Paul Poiret as a tailor and a designer. In 1939, he enlisted in the Foreign Legion; with the American Red Cross in North Africa, he made thousands of rather glamorous portraits of wounded servicemen. In Paris again, he was an illustrator for Le Figaro, but in 1947 he came to Australia, settling in Melbourne. Soon after, the editor of Meanjin asked him to make a series of pen and ink portraits of writers for the journal. Over the next fifty years his portrait drawings were hung in many Melbourne homes. He won the Archibald Prize in 1962 with a startling painting of Patrick White. Melbourne’s Jewish Museum held a multifarious Kahan retrospective in 1997.

Harold Holt CH was Australia’s 17th prime minister, from January 1966 to December 1967, when he disappeared off the coast of Victoria. John McEwen GCMG CH was caretaker prime minister until 10 January 1968.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Mrs Lily Kahan 2017
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Louis Kahan

Accession number: 2017.74

Currently not on display

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Subject professions

Government and leadership

Donated by

Lily Kahan (52 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.

Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan
Self portrait, 1949 Louis Kahan

A guy from Paris

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2018

Sarah Engledow on a foundational gallery figure who was quick on the draw.

Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish
Bob Hawke, 2012 Luke Cornish

Primed

Some Prime Ministers

Previous exhibition, 2019

Seventeen of Australia’s thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the contrasting sizes, moods and mediums of these portraits.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

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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.