Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

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.

Marc Besen AC and Eva Besen AO Featuring a favourite painting, Fred Williams ‘Wild Dog Creek’ 1977

2020
Raelene Sharp

oil on linen (110 cm x 114 cm)

Marc Besen AC (b. 1923) and Eva Besen AO (1928–2021) founded the Besen Family Foundation and are among Australia's foremost philanthropists and arts benefactors. Often described as 'retail royalty', they married in Melbourne in 1950. Marc had arrived in Australia from Eastern Europe in 1947 and at the time of his marriage was working as a hosiery supplier; Eva's parents, Sam and Fay Gandel, were Polish immigrants who ran a corsetry store called Sussan. By the end of the 1950s, Marc was in business with Eva's brother John Gandel, with whom he grew Sussan into one of the country's most successful retail enterprises, along with Suzanne Grae and Sportsgirl. When the family retail empire was acquired in 2003 by the Besens' daughter, Naomi Milgrom, it was estimated to have an annual turnover of over $600 million. The Besen Family Foundation was established in 1978 and has made many hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to initiatives in the areas of health and wellbeing, education, the Jewish community, and the visual and performing arts. In 1999, Marc and Eva instigated the founding of Australia's first major privately funded public art gallery, the TarraWarra Museum of Art. Eva and Marc's four children – Naomi Milgrom, Carol Schwartz, Daniel Besen and Debbie Dadon – continue the family tradition of philanthropic work.

In this portrait by Raelene Sharp, Marc and Eva Besen are depicted at home with one of Marc's favourite paintings – a landscape by Fred Williams. Acknowledging the Besens' lifelong support of artists, Sharp noted: 'Some of the Williams painting overlaps their figures as the landscape becomes part of them and they part of the landscape. Hence, they are literally and figuratively part of the Australian landscape of art.'

Commissioned with funds provided by Nigel Satterley AM and Denise Satterley 2020
© Raelene Sharp

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

Raelene Sharp (age 63 in 2020)

Marc Besen AC (age 97 in 2020)

Eva Besen AO (age 92 in 2020)

Related portraits

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.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency