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Barry Tuckwell, 1991

June Mendoza

oil on canvas (support: 102.0 cm x 127.0 cm)

Barry Tuckwell AC OBE (1931-2020), horn soloist, conductor, teacher and author spent his early years in Melbourne, where he learned a variety of instruments including piano and violin. Soon, his family moved to Sydney, where it is said that his career as a horn player began with a conversation between his sister, violinist Patricia ‘Bambi’ Tuckwell (Shmith), conductor Sir Charles Mackerras and a hornist, Richard Merewether, in a coffee lounge. Abandoning the piano, he sang in the St Andrew’s Cathedral choir, studied the horn at the Conservatorium, and began playing with the Sydney Symphony under Eugene Goossens. At the age of fifteen, he became third horn in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; not long after, he returned to Sydney as the principal horn. At the beginning of the 1950s he relocated to London. Within four years, at the age of 24, he was principal horn of the London Symphony Orchestra, with which he remained for many years, serving on the orchestra’s board as well. In 1968 he began a freelance solo performance and conducting career moving between the UK and the USA, over the course of which he became the world’s most-recorded horn player. He taught at London’s Royal Academy of Music for a decade, and was a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. He conducted many orchestras around the world, including the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1984. Many composers wrote pieces for him, and he wrote several key texts for students. He was first president of the International Horn Society from 1970 to 1976 and was its president again from 1992 to 1994. (In between, he founded the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.) He established the International Horn Society’s Barry Tuckwell Scholarship in 1997. That year, he indicated that he was done with solo performance and he became an American citizen, although he later returned to Victoria and he was heard to play again. His many international honours included an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney, the JC Williamson Award for performing excellence and the Bernard Heinze Award for outstanding contribution to music in Australia.

In the background of the portrait Mendoza has suggested a characteristic leather piece by Tasmanian craftsman Garry Greenwood (1943-2005). Greenwood was renowned internationally for his fanciful shoes, erotic and fantastical sculptures and his instruments, as played by the Tasmanian Leather Orchestra, Don Burrows and Tuckwell himself.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of David Tuckwell 2018

Accession number: 2018.142

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

June Mendoza (age 67 in 1991)

Barry Tuckwell AC OBE (age 60 in 1991)

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