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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.

Thomas Woolner

Missing Persons

Thomas Woolner in Australia
About Face article

Desperately seeking Woolner medallions

Brooke Lockett, Heidi Martin, Karen Nanasca, Halaina Hills; New York, 2012 Lisa Tomasetti

Dance like everyone’s watching

About Face article

Penelope Grist’s spirits soar with Lisa Tomasetti’s Dancers in the Streets series.

Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite, c.1879 attributed to Charles Nettleton

Diseased curiosity

Captain Moonlite et al on trial for murder
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Just after 10.00 o'clock on 3 December 1879, four prisoners were brought from their cells at Darlinghurst Gaol and placed in the dock of a courtroom heaving with agitated spectators

Thomas Woolner

The mystery of Enoch Arden

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Tennyson's Enoch Arden was inspired by a story that Thomas Woolner passed on to him – but whose story and of whom?

Little John of Colchester, a poor lunatic, c.1823 by John Dempsey

Dempsey's people

About Face article

Those of you who are active in social media circles may be aware that through the past week I have unleashed a blitz on Facebook and Instagram in connection with our new winter exhibition Dempsey’s People: A Folio of British Street Portraits, 1824−1844.

General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane

Seeing stars

Celebrating Science Week
About Face article

It has been suggested that Sir Thomas Brisbane’s interest in the New South Wales governorship was as attributable to his passion for astronomy as to the desirability of the position as a prestigious career move.

James Mccabe Executed Jany. 6th 1826

The consolations of religion

A bushranger meets his maker, 6 January 1826
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James McCabe provides proof that hanging wasn’t necessarily a fate reserved for the perpetrators of murder and other deeds of darkest hue. 

Monument to Mrs. Moore St. Luke’s Church, Liverpool, Sydney

Waterloo and Mrs. Moore

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Beyond the centenary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, a number of other notable anniversaries converge this year. Waterloo deserves a little focussed consideration, for in the decades following 1815 numerous Waterloo and Peninsular War veterans came to Australia.

Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe

Storied portrait

About Face article

Emily Casey takes in Shirley Purdie’s remarkable self-portrait, Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe.

Cover, first minute book of the Tasmanian Society of Natural History

Embrace your inner nerd

About Face article

The southern winter has arrived. For people in the northern hemisphere (the majority of humanity) the idea of snow and ice, freezing mist and fog in June, potentially continuing through to August and beyond, encapsulates the topsy-turvidom of our southern continent.

The Dance - David McAllister

Home is where the art is

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Tedi Bills on how social media in the age of COVID-19 has fanned the flames of our portrait fascination.

Lustre, held by a Groom, ca. 1762 by George Stubbs

Stubbs and the horse

About Face article

One of the chief aims of George Stubbs, 1724–1806, the late Judy Egerton’s great 198485 exhibition at the Tate Gallery was to provide an eloquent rebuttal to Josiah Wedgwood’s famous remark of 1780: “Noboby suspects Mr Stubs [sic] of painting anything but horses & lions, or dogs & tigers.”

Trumble's way

About Face article

At the end of a summer break one is tempted to say that there is nothing much to report. Isn’t one restful holiday very much like another?

Inditchenous beestes of New Olland

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A remarkable undated drawing by Edward Lear (1812–88) blends natural history and whimsy.

Sydney Cove medallion, 1789 by Josiah Wedgwood

The medallion

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In recent years I have become fascinated by the so-called Sydney Cove Medallion (1789), a work of art that bridges the 10,000-mile gap between the newly established penal settlement at Port Jackson and the beating heart of Enlightenment England.

Forest Creek, Mount Alexander Diggings, 1852 by S. T. Gill

The Rothschilds, the Montefiores, and the Victorian Gold Rush

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Some years ago my colleague Andrea Wolk Rager and I spent several days in the darkened basement of a Rothschild Bank, inspecting every one of the nearly 700 autochromes created immediately before World War I by the youthful Lionel de Rothschild.

20/20 launch speech

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Dr Helen Nugent AO, Chairman, National Portrait Gallery at the opening of 20/20: Celebrating twenty years with twenty new portrait commissions.

Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and David R. L. Litchfield at Villa Favorita, Lugano, Switzerland, 1989 © Nicola Graydo

The Thyssen Art Macabre

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Books seldom make me angry but this one did. At first, I was powerfully struck by the uncanny parallels that existed between the Mellons of Pittsburgh and the Thyssens of the Ruhr through the same period, essentially the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Barry Humphries

Talking heads

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In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

Sunset in the drawing room at Chesney Wold by Hablot Knight Brown

Portraiture in a Bleak House

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It may seem an odd thing to do at one’s leisure on a beautiful tropical island, but I spent much of my midwinter break a few weeks ago re-reading Bleak House.

Mural of Italian/Roman actress Anna Magnani (1908­–1973) with face mask, April 2020 Unknown artist

Of plague and portraits

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Corinna Cullen on the symbolic power of pandemic-related imagery over the ages.

A Family Being Served with Tea, ca. 1745 by an unknown artist

A reflection on conversation pieces

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There is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, an English painting, datable on the basis of costume to about 1745, that has for many years exercised my imagination.

Surfing, Noosa, 1970s Stuart Spence

The play’s the thing

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Penelope Grist charts an immersive path through Stuart Spence’s photography.

An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens

Maria Caroline Brownrigg

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At first glance, this small watercolour group portrait of her two sons and four daughters by Maria Caroline Brownrigg (d. 1880) may seem prosaic, even hesitant

Helen Borthwick née Pearson

The personal and the historical

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Where do we draw a line between the personal and the historical? Although she died in Melbourne in 1975, when I was not quite eleven years old, I have the vividest memories of my maternal grandmother Helen Borthwick.

Christmas Island

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This is my last Trumbology before, in a little more than a week from now, I pass to my successor Karen Quinlan the precious baton of the Directorship of the National Portrait Gallery.

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

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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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency