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David Armstrong, B.A., B. Phil.
, 1959

by Clifton Pugh

oil on masonite (frame: 156.5 cm x 110.5 cm, support: 137.0 cm x 91.5 cm)

David Malet Armstrong AO (1926-2014), arguably the best-known and most influential of all twentieth-century Australian philosophers, was educated in England and at Geelong Grammar, and after serving in the Australian navy studied at Sydney and Oxford. Having lectured at the University of London he returned to Australia in 1955, soon taking up a post as a philosophy lecturer at the University of Melbourne. Having published Berkeley’s Theory of Vision (1960) he became a senior lecturer, completed his PhD and brought forth Perception and the Physical World (1961) and Bodily Sensations (1962). In 1964 he became Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and held this position, interrupted only by visiting professorships in the USA, until his retirement some 28 years later. A Materialist Theory of the Mind (1968) introduced the world to ‘Australian materialism’. Besides writing a plethora of books, the last published in 2010, throughout his life he engaged in public and political affairs, active in the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom and closely involved with its journal, Quadrant. David Irvine wrote in Quadrant in 2014 ‘Armstrong’s influence on Australian culture has been enormous simply because his influence on world culture has been enormous.’

Daivd Armstrong read a draft of the Antipodean Manifesto on art, which Pugh signed, but ‘could not render the verbiage into academically acceptable English’. The portrait of Armstrong was Pugh’s entry in the Archibald Prize of 1959.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Jennifer Armstrong 2018
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2018.6