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Billy Hughes
, n.d.

by Will Dyson

pen and ink wash on paper (sheet: 26.7 x 19.2 cm)

William Morris Hughes (1862–1952) was Labor and National Party Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923. Before becoming Prime Minister Hughes helped to found several major trade unions, but the card-carrying socialist was expelled from the Labor party in 1916 for supporting conscription. Thus, he won the 1917 election for the new National Party. During the war Hughes travelled to Europe to lobby for Australian exporters and ensure a political voice for Australia; he returned from a high-profile performance at the post-war peace conferences in the persona of ‘Billy’ Hughes, the ‘Little Digger’. During the course of his life-long parliamentary career, he was also expelled from the National and United Australia Parties, and ended his days in a Liberal seat.

Hughes’s small stature combined with his pugnacious personality to make him a favourite subject of caricaturists. Cuffed trousers were all the rage in the 1920s, but this drawing may well have been made earlier.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2012
Accession number: 2012.187