The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra is one of the city’s most worthwhile attractions. Admission is free and the main collection display of some 450 portraits is always rewarding and current special exhibitions include the National Photographic Portrait Prize (until June 8), Uncommon Australians: The Vision of Gordon and Marilyn Darling (until June 14) and All That Fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War (until July 26).
Focussing on a theme of loss and absence, All that fall: Sacrifice, life and loss in the First World War is the National Portrait Gallery’s contribution to the Anzac Centenary. The exhibition provides a moving, powerful ‘portrait’ of loss on the Australian home front during the war. From the gallery website:
Australian sound artist Lawrence English has created two related sound-works. An immersive soundscape tints the exhibition space. A multi-channel sound installation includes spoken names of the 11th Battalion, the first to fall at Gallipoli.
In Theodora Cowan’s proposed memorial the dying Anzac is lying in the arms of Death, with female Destiny nursing a baby, a young boy representing Love and the Angel of Immortality holding aloft a torch. Canberra-based artist Ellis Hutch has created an installation as a poetic and evocative response to the intent of Cowan’s memorial.
The dead were buried far from home. Most graves would never be visited by the immediate family. The absence of the non-returned is evoked in spare and haunting landscape photographs devoid of figures by Canberra-based artist Lee Grant.
The living body is brought back in video portraits. The National Portrait Gallery collaborated with the actors and creators of Black Diggers to produce video portraits commissioned for the exhibition.
Right: Crucifixion of Civilisation (halftone reproduction 1932) by Rayner Hoff
Top: Lee Grant's All that fall - Fall Here: One of three large-scale landscape photographs the Canberra artist has at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition.
On paper, the official Day One Canberra Royal Tour looked a tad boring. Off to the National Arboretum to plant an oak tree… up to Parliament House to rub shoulders with the pollies and, in the afternoon, a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see a bunch of supposedly famous Aussies in frames hanging about.
If the Duke and Duchess were anything like me and my good wife they would have wished they had more time at the National Portrait Gallery. They had an hour – we had an afternoon, and it still wasn’t long enough. It really is a sensational gallery and on its own worth a visit to our national capital.
There are famous and infamous subjects - sports stars, pioneers, politicians and pop stars. A tip – skim around the gallery to get your bearings and then go back to focus in detail one the ones you really liked to appreciate the artist and the subject. My personal favourites on that visit were steely, aloof and inquisitive Don Bradman by Bill Leak, sexy Lola Montez, imposing Henry Parkes by Tom Roberts, a wise, pensive, sensitive Donald Horne, a slightly fragile Don Dunstan, a confident, even brash Charlie Teo and a damaged but defiant art critic Robert Hughes (also by Bill Leak). The portraits of David Gulpilil and Albert Namatjira made me sad... the one of Bill and Dallas Hayden getting ready for dinner amused me greatly.
Rydges Capital Hill is handy to the Portrait Gallery which is just across from the National Gallery of Australia if you want to check out both in a day. If you do, I highly recommend the lamb pie with crusty pastry for lunch at the National Portrait Gallery.
On a recent visit to Canberra spent a delightful afternoon in the National Portrait Gallery (after a delicious lamb pie with crusty pastry in the gallery restaurant). I was somehow expecting it to be a tad staid and boring. Not a bit. The hours slipped away and I was left wanting more time.
There are famous and infamous, sports stars, pioneers, politicians and pop stars. Until September 8, one of the featured pop stars is Paul Kelly. Apart from various Kelly portraits hung in entrance, as opposed to his namesake, Ned, who has hanged, not hung.
Throughout the exhibition there are lovely little Paul Kelly videos. For example, next to the Bill Leak portrait of Don Bradman you can don the headsets and watch Kelly sing his song about the great batsman who, incidentally, was a friend of Paul Kelly's father.
My favourites, along with Bradman, were sexy Lola Montez, imposing Henry Parkes by Tom Roberts, a wise, pensive, sensitive Donald Horne, a slightly fragile Don Dunstan, a confident, even brash Charlie Teo and a damaged but defient Robert Hughes (also Bill Leak). The portraits of David Gulpilil and Albert Namatjira made me sad... the one of Bill and Dallas Hayden getting ready for dinner amused me greatly. Highly recommended.
Both Rydges Capital Hill and Rydges Lakeside are handy to the Portrait Gallery which is just across from the National Gallery of Australia if you want to also check out the Turner from the Tate exhibition.