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Portrait of Leslie Walford
, 1970s

by Vaike Liibus

oil on canvas (frame: 135.5 cm x 104.0 cm, support: 121.0 cm x 90.0 cm)

Leslie Walford AM (1927-2012), decorator and newspaper columnist, was a fifth-generation Australian – unusual, for his time. He was educated at Tudor House, Bowral and Winchester School in England before studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. In the early 1950s he spent formative years in France, where he studied design. He returned to Sydney in 1956 and opened an interiors shop in Double Bay the following year. Patronised by wealthy and influential friends of his family, he prospered; he decorated Kirribilli House for the Whitlams and created Reg and Joy Grundy’s homes in Sydney and Bermuda; he worked for the Murdochs and ‘did’ James Fairfax’s Retford Park twice. In 1967 he began writing the ‘Our Town’ social column for the Sydney Morning Herald, which continued until 1982. Subsequently, he wrote on design for the paper. He was a foundation member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia and a life fellow of the Design Institute of Australia, into the hall of fame of which he was inducted in 2008. A book of letters between Walford and his mother Dora, Darling mother, darling son was published in 2017.

Vaike Liibus (Lakeman), born Vaike Sabbi in Estonia, studied drawing, fashion drawing, millinery and window dressing at East Sydney Tech, and having married Eugen Liibus, took art classes at the Meldrum School and the Ashton School. In 1956, widowed and with two children, she first entered the Archibald; up to 1983, she was a finalist a further ten times, in 1973 having two portraits hung. In 1962 she married a lawyer, Roger Lakeman; she continued to paint at their home in Vaucluse and in her studio in Darlinghurst into the 1990s.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Sally Hardy 2019
Accession number: 2019.30