Australian Portraits 1880 – 1960 is a major touring exhibition of The National Gallery’s collection of portraits by Australian artists. The exhibition, consisting of 54 paintings by 34 artists, is in its last week at the University of Queensland Art Gallery finishing on the 27th of March.
This exhibition, despite the boring title, is fantastic. The calibre and range of artists is very impressive, boasting works by Frederick McCubbin, George Lambert, Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington-Smith, Albert Tucker, Sidney Noland, Russel Drysdale, William Dobell and many more. The figures in the portraits range from friends, family, artists and poets to persiennes, flappers, bushranger and serial killers, each portrait concealing and revealing certain aspects of the sitter.
Tom Roberts, 'Study of Lena Brasch' c.1893, via NGA
Tom Roberts, Study of Lena Brasch c.1893 is an unfinished, vibrant portrait full or energy and excitement. Roberts captures the beauty and elegance of his sitter by portraying her as shy and demure with her eyes cast downward and face turned from the audience, as if she was hesitant to reveal too much of herself. Yet Roberts has given her life and personality through the use of thick bold lines, dramatic splashes of bright colour and rapid brushstrokes. This style so untypical of Roberts is only enhanced by the juxtaposition of some of his finished portraits such as An Australian Native 1888, which is a full-length portrait depicting life like realism.
Tom Roberts, 'An Australian Native' 1888 via NGA
There are two George W Lambert portraits, Chesham St 1910 and Weighing the Fleece 1921, both show the incredible skill and attention to detail of the artist. Chesham St is a self-portrait of Lambert baring his chest in a brazen and unashamed way. This presentation of himself definitely reveals a lot of his personality and validates the claims that he was an extrovert and loved being the centre of attention.
George W Lambert, 'Weighing the Fleece' 1921 via NGA
Ian Fairweather, 'Self Portrait' 1962 via NGA
William Dobell, 'Sketch portrait of Dame Mary Gilmore' c.1956 via NGA
Dusan Marek, 'My Wife' c.1952 via NGA
Margaret Preston, 'Flapper' 1925 via NGA