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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.

Head of H.C. Coombs

c. 1972 (cast 2018)
Norma Redpath

bronze (including base: 13.5 cm x 4.5 cm depth 6.5 cm, 8.6 cm x 4.5 cm depth 6.5 cm)
Image not available

Herbert Cole (‘Nugget’) Coombs (1906-1997), an economist, was the governor of the Commonwealth (later Reserve) Bank of Australia from 1949 to 1968. After working with the Commonwealth Bank and in various government posts, Coombs was appointed Director of Rationing by Prime Minister Curtin in 1943. Following his success in this position he became Director-General of Postwar Reconstruction. Guided by Keynesian principles and his own social concerns, he developed plans for full employment and the alleviation of other social problems. Remarkably, Coombs was economic adviser to seven Australian prime ministers: Curtin, Chifley, Menzies, Holt, McMahon, Gorton and Whitlam. He was central to the establishment of the Australian National University in the 1940s and 1950s; the institution’s HC Coombs Building, designed by Melbourne architects Mockridge Stahle and Mitchell, opened in 1964. An active advocate of Aboriginal land rights, he was also the first Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, established in 1968. A Canberra suburb is named in his honour; the adjoining suburb is named for his lover late in life, the poet and activist Judith Wright.

The tiny bust of Coombs featured in the exhibition Norma Redpath: Works from the Studio, 1970s and 1980s at Charles Nordrum Gallery, Richmond, 21 June-7 July 2018.

The bust – recently cast - is supposed by Charles Nodrum to have been conceived at around the time Redpath was the HC Coombs Creative Fellow at ANU. While it is possible that she toyed with the idea of a large sculpture of Coombs for the vicinity of his eponymous building, the circumstances in which she created this portrait head – as such, possibly unique in her oeuvre – are currently unknown.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2018

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

Norma Redpath (age 44 in 1972)

H.C. Coombs (age 66 in 1972)

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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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