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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.

Robyn Archer and Gough Whitlam

1986 (printed 2019)
Neil Duncan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (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
© Neil Duncan

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

Neil Duncan

Robyn Archer AO (age 38 in 1986)

Hon. Gough Whitlam AC QC (age 70 in 1986)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hand of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari

A handful of sand

Magazine article by Ellen Kent, 2007

Ellen Kent examines the portrait of Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam taken by photographer Mervyn Bishop.

Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke

Primed

Some Prime Ministers

Previous exhibition, 2019

Seventeen of Australia’s thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the contrasting sizes, moods and mediums of these portraits.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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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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