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ON DISPLAY

Robyn Archer and Gough Whitlam
, 1986 (printed 2019)

by Neil Duncan

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 50.5 cm x 40.5 cm, image: 41.0 cm x 29.0 cm)

Neil Duncan, a Sydney-based retired newspaper and magazine photographer, worked on assignment for publications including the Australian, the Sun and the London Times before changing his focus to commissions for industrial and corporate clients. He is particularly renowned for images of Sydney scenes including a definitive series on the defunct Colgate Palmolive factory, Balmain.

Campaigning in 1972, Whitlam promised ‘to promote a standard of excellence in the arts, to widen access to, and the understanding and application of, the arts in the community generally, to help establish and express an Australian identity through the arts and to promote an awareness of Australian culture abroad’. Personally, he loved visual arts, the theatre and opera. After he left parliament in 1978, he was Australian ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, chair of the Australia-China Council and chair of the council of the National Gallery of Australia, amongst other involvements in public life. Robyn Archer AO (b. 1948), performer, writer and director, became a star with her first theatrical efforts, Kold Komfort Kaffee (1978), The Conquest of Carmen Miranda (1978), A Star is Torn (1979) and Tonight: Lola Blau (1979), for all of which she wrote the songs and in all of which she performed. Internationally renowned for her interpretations of Brecht/Weill and Eisler, she has a distinguished record as director of Australian artistic festivals.

Neil Duncan took this photograph in February 1986, when Archer was artistic counsel for the Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney, and she and Whitlam jointly launched the year’s program. She believes that it was taken in the upstairs theatre at the Belvoir – ‘I recognise that back wall,’ she writes.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2019
Accession number: 2019.21