Skip to main content
Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Autumn in Canberra

by Angus Trumble, 1 May 2014

Angus Trumble with Self portrait at easel by Fred Williams
Angus Trumble with Self portrait at easel by Fred Williams

Her pleasure in the walk must arise… from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.

In Persuasion (1818), a long walk on a fine autumn day affords Anne Elliot an opportunity to ruminate wistfully and at great length upon declining happiness, youth and hope, to which Jane Austen might well have added her own sharply declining health. Persuasion was written in a hurry, so it is hard not to see Anne as a kind of self-portrait, urgently drawn but without a hint of self-pity. The earliest copy advertised for sale in the Sydney Gazette in June 1821 was bound with Northanger Abbey, and formed part of "the Residue of an Investment imported on the ship Midas".

Our many deciduous trees make the southern autumn more clearly visible in Canberra than in any other Australian city, so I wonder if at this time of year we are similarly nudged in the direction of poetical melancholy, such that Nora Heysen’s youthful self-portrait seems more than usually grave and defiant; Arthur Boyd’s more haunted; Fred Williams’s more introspective, and Sidney Nolan’s more restive and lonelier in the face of advancing years, despite the signal honours that were heaped upon him. Four great artists see themselves here with various degrees of sharpness and acuity, but surely just now we see them above all in the light of autumn.

4 portraits

1 Self portrait at easel, 1960-1961 Fred Williams. © Fred Williams. 2 Self portrait, 1934 Nora Heysen AM. © Lou Klepac. 3 Self portrait, 1988 Sidney Nolan. © Sidney Nolan/Copyright Agency, 2022.

Related people

Fred Williams

© National Portrait Gallery 2023
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency