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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.

Sir Edward Hallstrom, c. 1960

Esme Bell

oil on masonite (frame: 95.0 cm x 80.0 cm depth 5.0 cm, support: 76.0 cm x 61.0 cm)

Sir Edward John Lees Hallstrom (1886–1970) manufacturer, philanthropist and zoo trustee, grew up with his eight siblings in Waterloo, Sydney, after the family left the failed family farm in Coonamble, New South Wales. Hallstrom left school at 13 and was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker. The archetypal self-made man, he was an ardent autodidact and entrepreneurial innovator throughout his life. By the early 1920s, he had started his first business, married and begun a family. In their backyard at Dee Why, Hallstrom designed a new kerosene-powered refrigerator, the ‘Icy Ball’, which he began selling to outback homesteads in 1928. Developing the product range, Hallstrom moved production to a Willoughby factory site, which by the mid-1940s had a workforce of over 750, making 1 200 ‘Silent Knight’ refrigerators per week for domestic sale and export as well as manufacturing for the war effort. The now-wealthy Hallstrom had a passion for animals and delighted in diverse philanthropic giving. He supported medical research and the building of hospital clinics for cancer and cardiac care in Sydney. In Papua and New Guinea, he founded a Bird of Paradise Sanctuary and established an experimental sheep-breeding station. Beginning with funds for the purchase of two rhinoceroses in 1937, Hallstrom devoted much of his personal fortune to Taronga Zoological Park Trust. In 1947 alone he donated 1 649 birds and animals, including elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, leopards and zebras. Hallstrom imported Taronga zoo’s first gorilla, King Kong, in 1959, financing its ‘Gorilla Villa’. He was the zoo’s greatest benefactor and served for 26 years as its most influential trustee until, in the last decade of his life, the professionalisation of zoological science began to sideline his considerable amateur expertise. He was knighted in 1952, recognised by zoological societies throughout the world. A genus of petrels was named Hallstroma in his honour.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Musgrave Family 2018
© Estate of Esme Bell

Accession number: 2018.66

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Esme Bell (age 41 in 1960)

Sir Edward John Lees Hallstrom (age 74 in 1960)

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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.