Bob Ellis (1942–2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director, playwright, speechwriter and critic. His screenwriting credits, Newsfront, Goodbye Paradise, Maybe This Time, Fatty Finn, Top Kid and The Paper Boy all won major prizes, as did his collaborations with Paul Cox, Man of Flowers and My First Wife. For the stage, he collaborated with Michael Boddy on The Legend of King O’Malley. Having run unsuccessfully against Bronwyn Bishop for the seat of Mackellar in 1994, Ellis was answerable for the sensational ‘Abbott and Costello’ defamation case in March 1999. Finding assertions made in a short passage of his 1997 book Goodbye Jerusalem: Night Thoughts of a Labor Outsider false and defamatory, the judge ruled that his publisher pay compensation of $277,500 to Liberal politicians Peter Costello and Tony Abbott and their wives. Later, in the course of criticizing Julia Gillard, Ellis was to praise Abbott’s manners and intellect. His later books include The Capitalism Delusion (2009) and One Hundred Days of Summer (2010). The Ellis Laws, the author’s ten ‘laws’ of life, was published by Penguin in 2014.
Naseby met Ellis through Les Murray, his friend of forty years’ standing, and he comments that seeing the two men together was ‘awe-inspiring’. This painting was done at the time of the publication of Goodbye Jerusalem. Naseby intended to refer to the ‘Abbott and Costello’ affair in the work but was dissuaded by friends from doing so. He writes that Ellis ‘loves a stoush’ and that he painted Ellis in a t-shirt because it ‘made him look like the scrapper he is’.
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2001
Accession number: 2001.2
More about the artist and subject
Magazine article, Portrait 53
Bob Ellis (1942–2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director, playwright, speechwriter and critic.
Permanent collection catalogue
On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.