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Fred Hollows
, 1993

by Kerrie Lester

oil on hand-stitched canvas (overall (irregular): 256.5 x 134.0 cm)

Professor Fred Hollows AC (1929–1993), ophthalmologist, made his way to Australia from New Zealand, where he had trained

as a doctor and become a communist. Completing his specialist training in England and Wales, in 1965 he began work as an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales. Soon, he began investigating eye disease in Aboriginal communities. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he worked to raise public awareness of ill–health prevailing amongst Indigenous people, while pioneering treatments of trachoma and other eye diseases that halved the incidence of curable blindness in Aboriginal populations in more than 450 outback communities. He also established successful eye treatment schemes overseas, notably in Nepal and Eritrea. The gruff doctor was Australian of the Year in 1990 and was given a State funeral following his death from cancer three years later. The Fred Hollows Foundation continues his work, spearheaded by his widow, Gabi Hollows, who is a designated Living National Treasure in her own right.

Sydney-born painter Kerrie Lester (1953-2016) was one of the first artists commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, and her painting of athlete Cathy Freeman was among the first fifty works acquired for the Gallery’s collection. In 1999, Lester gifted a further three works to the Gallery: her portrait of film producer Margaret Fink, a finalist in the 1989 Portia Geach Memorial Award; her portrait of jazz performer James Morrison, an Archibald finalist in 1996; and this painting of Hollows, which also featured in the Archibald Prize exhibition.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1999
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 1999.46a-b