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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.

Portrait of Captain John Hunter

Goods and chattels

About Face article

I have been reading systematically through the ads in the earliest issues of the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, such a rich vein of information about certain aspects of daily life in Regency Sydney.

Death mask of George Melville courtesy of National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Old Melbourne Gaol Collection

A colourful story from Sideshow Alley

Infamy, the macabre & the portrait
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From infamous bushranger to oyster shop display, curator Jo Gilmour explores the life of George Melville.

Opening of the First Legislative Council of Victoria, by Governor Charles Joseph LaTrobe, at St Patrick's Hall, Bourke Street West, Melbourne. November 13th 1851. From sketches taken at the time by William Strutt.

Magna Carta

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On this day eight hundred years ago at Runnymede near Windsor, King John signed Magna Carta.

Gough Whitlam

Prime Ministers

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On the day before the Hon. E. G. Whitlam, AC, QC, died last month, at the great age of 98, there were seven former prime ministers of Australia still living, plus the incumbent Mr. Abbott – eight in all.

Percy, Reginald, Monty and George Faithfull, undated by Henry Dorner. Image courtesy the National Museum of Australia.

An affray which deserves particular mention

Ben Hall and his gang outdone, 6 February 1865
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Bushranger Ben Hall and his cronies held around 40 people hostage in a pub north-west of Goulburn, telling their captives ‘don’t be alarmed; we only came here for a bit of fun’.

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.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, 1824 by James Thomson

Audacity, audacity, audacity

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Angus delves into the biographies of two ambitious characters; Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir John Pope-Hennessy.

Thomas Woolner

Missing Persons

Thomas Woolner in Australia
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Desperately seeking Woolner medallions

The great South Sea caterpillar transformed into a Bath Butterfly (Sir Joseph Banks)

The Bath Butterfly

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The caricaturist and engraver James Gillray's biting satires about Sir Joseph Banks. 

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.

Canberra Close Up: Angus Trumble

Desert Island Discs

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I agonized over the choice of four songs to take with me to the ABC Studios for Alex Sloan’s Canberra 666 afternoon program, a sort of iteration of the old BBC Desert Island Discs.

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

Stubbs and the horse

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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.”

Angus Trumble Director, National Portrait Gallery

Cherish the brethren

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Fortunately, perhaps, there is no instruction manual for newly appointed art museum directors.

Portrait of Captain James Cook RN

Robert Oatley AO

1928–2016
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The National Portrait Gallery mourns the loss of one our most generous benefactors, Robert Oatley AO.

Mirka - 9 Collins Street

Wicked but Virtuous

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Faith Stellmaker shares pioneering artist and restaurateur Mirka Mora’s lasting legacy on Melbourne’s art, dining and culture.

Inditchenous beestes of New Olland

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

Grateful admiration and brotherly love

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In the earliest stages of the Great War, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was turned into a military hospital, and arrangements made there to accommodate the different dietary and other requirements of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients.

Cooey: an Australian song

Cooey! An Australian Song

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"Coo-ey, Coo-ey, Coo-ey, Coo-ey—Love has caught the strain, Coo-ey, Coo-ey, Coo-ey, Coo-ey—it whispers back again." The “Australian lady” who composed these fruity lyrics was none other than Desda— Jane Davies, sometime Messiter (née Price) of Leddicott, Lavender Bay.

William Bligh

William Bligh

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The life of William Bligh offers up a handful of the most remarkable episodes in the history of Britain’s eighteenth and early nineteenth-century maritime empire.

Untitled, Conductors, Tramways series, 1990 © Matt Nettheim

Back track

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Penelope Grist finds photographer Matt Nettheim re-visiting a formative and fulfilling career tram stop.

Indexing, the art of

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The first index I created was for my first book, and, to my astonishment, that was almost twenty-five years ago.

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.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

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Nothing quite prepares the first-time visitor to Cambodia for the scale and grandeur of the monuments of the ancient Khmer civilisation of Angkor.

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.

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.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Signed and dated 1843 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Queen Victoria

About Face article

Last Sunday I had the privilege of appearing at the Canberra Writers’ Festival in conversation with Julia Baird. The subject of our session was Julia’s recent biography, Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman who Ruled an Empire.

General Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane

Seeing stars

Celebrating Science Week
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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.

The selfie stick

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Last week ABC Television came to interview me about selfie sticks. The story was prompted by the announcement that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has lately prohibited the use of these inside their galleries. So far as I am aware we have not yet encountered the phenomenon, but no doubt we will before too long.

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.

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.

Trumble's way

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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?

The National Portrait Gallery's 20th birthday party

The National Portrait Gallery's 20th Anniversary

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Last month we marked the twentieth anniversary of the formal establishment of the National Portrait Gallery, the tenth of the opening of our signature building, and the fifth of our having become a statutory authority under Commonwealth legislation.

Queen Alexandra and Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, Hvidore, circa 1908 by Mary Steen

The cost of living luxuriously

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In 1904, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia purchased as a gift for her sister, Queen Alexandra, a fan composed of two-color gold, guilloché enamel, mother-of-pearl, blond tortoiseshell, gold sequins, silk, cabochon rubies, and rose diamonds from the House of Fabergé in Saint Petersburg.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Alan Goldberg

Beyond the bow tie

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Nathan Faiman delves into the rich life story and legacy of Alan Goldberg.

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

Embrace your inner nerd

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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.

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

The Triumph of Death, c. 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Black Death

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The best horror stories are real. A flea sinks its proboscis into the skin of a sick black rat, feeds on its blood, and ingests lethally multiplying bacteria.

Group photograph taken at the coronation of King George VI including Queen Elizabeth II, Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Queen Mother, 12 May 1937 by Hay Wrightson

Poise and Carats

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I keep going back to Cartier: The Exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia next door, and, within the exhibition, to Princess Marie Louise’s diamond, pearl and sapphire Indian tiara (1923), surely one of the most superb head ornaments ever conceived.

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
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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