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George Reid paperweight an unknown artist

Some prime ministers

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Sarah Engledow explores the history of the prime ministers and artists featured in the exhibition.

The blue of the dawn, 2009 by Vittoria Dussoni

NPPP 2011 exhibition essay

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Dr Sarah Engledow, National Photographic Portrait Prize judge and curator, introduces the 2011 Prize.

David Marr, 2011 by Nicholas Harding

Nicholas Harding: 28 Portraits Exhibition essay

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Sarah Engledow looks at three decades of Nicholas Harding's portraiture.

Billie, 2016 by Graeme Drendel

Pets of all types take over the National Portrait Gallery 3 November 2016

Archived media releases 2016

It is not every day that a national gallery turns its walls over to the animal companions that bring unconditional love and joy to their owners but this summer we have opened the doors to 15 contemporary artists with very different ways of depicting our furry, feathered and scaled pets.

Untitled (Chihuahua), 2001 by Noel McKenna
Private collection, Melbourne

Noel McKenna

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It’s a matter beyond dispute that in the entire history of Australian art, it’s Noel McKenna who’s painted the liveliest rendition of the head of a Chihuahua.

Beach life (dog), 2006 by Nicholas Harding

Nicholas Harding

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Over the years the young Nicholas Harding got his hands on various mice and guinea pigs, but they served mainly to illustrate the concept of mortality. 

Emitt sitting, 2001 by Lucy Culliton

Lucy Culliton

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Most well-regarded pictures of chickens show them dead. A reliable way to tell if a chicken in a painting is dead is to check if it’s hanging upside down, because unlike, say, cockatoos, chickens don’t practise inversion for enjoyment in life.

Jack With Flossy, 2016 by Anna Culliton

Anna Culliton

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Anna Culliton never had a colouring-in book when she was little. Her parents –Tony, a filmmaker, and Stephanie, a painter – wouldn’t let her have one. Instead, they insisted on her drawing her own pictures to colour-in. 

Self Portrait (the year my husband left), 2008 by Jude Rae

Jude Rae

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Jude Rae’s high reputation rests on her austere, cerebral still lifes of gas canisters, electric jugs and jars, which she groups and rearranges for paintings that catch their difficult curves and reflections. Her self-portrait’s likewise thoughtfully composed.

Self portrait with pug, 2009 by William Robinson
QUT Art Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by William Robinson, 2015

William Robinson

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Unique in the world, perhaps, is a bronze sculpture that fuses the age-old human portrait bronze tradition, and the later genre of the bronze pug figurine: that’d be William Robinson’s Self-portrait with pug.

Janet Dawson, 2016 by Mark Mohell

Janet Dawson

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When soulmates Janet Dawson and Michael Boddy moved from Sydney to a property, Boddy was clear about why: ‘Our marriage is one long conversation - we moved to the bush so we could talk to each other without so many interruptions.’

Basil steps out, 2016 by Kristin Headlam
Courtesy the artist and Charles Nodrum Gallery

Kristin Headlam

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Basil grew into a speckled beauty – a long-legged leaper and an exceptionally vocal dog, with a great register of sounds, ascending in shock value from a whimper to a growl to a bark to a yelp that’s a violation of the ears.

Kangaroos, 2007 by Davida Allen

Davida Allen

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Going around a gallery with a child, we point to a painting of a dog and brightly ask ‘What’s that?’ If they don’t say ‘A dog’, we tell them that’s what it is. We don’t say it’s a shape inscribed by an artist that’s popularly understood to signify a dog. That’d only serve to foster a smarty-pants.

Scone, 2010 by Darren McDonald
Private collection, Melbourne and courtesy of Scott Livesey Galleries

Darren McDonald

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The wild balancing act of McDonald’s home décor (is that there as a joke? where do I actually sit down? is this ironic or what? what a lovely photo of Darren and Robin in Europe!) is reflected in his own personality.

Night Owl, 2013 by Fiona McMonagle
Private Collection, NSW

Fiona McMonagle

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Fiona aims to create a dangerous situation with a flood of water on the paper, forcing each work to the point where it can fail, and then rescuing it. 

Cadet with rabbit, 2009 by Graeme Drendel

Graeme Drendel

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I like talking about Drendel’s pictures as if they expressed dreams of my own.

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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.