Skip to main content

Coming to visit? Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

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.

You-who

Self-portraiture

The Amazing Face, lesson 14

Today is the last day and we want to hand it over to you. We will LOOK at the self-portraits by Nora Heysen and by Albert Tucker with Joy Hester; THINK about self-portraiture; WATCH a video interview with Nora Heysen; READ an article by Andrew Sayers; and then hand over to you for an extra special final activity.

To curators and art historians, the tradition of self-portraiture is integral to tracing and understanding the evolution of an individual artist’s style, working methods and output. By default, self-portraits also amount to a kind of readymade art historical timeline, providing invaluable insights into ideas about the purpose of portraiture and the interconnectedness of identity and creative expression. The latter is held to be particularly evident in self-portraits made during the first half of the twentieth century, when the sitter’s inner world started being seen as deserving of artistic exploration. Roughly 90% of the self-portraits owned by the National Portrait Gallery date from 1900 onwards, and several of these count as some of the most-prized works in the collection.

Show full caption Hide full caption

Albert Tucker’s photograph In the mirror (1939), showing him and his first wife, artist Joy Hester, hints at some of the unvarnished intensity characterised by the paintings he is best known for. And Nora Heysen’s diminutive but powerful self-portrait was painted in 1934, shortly after she arrived in London at age 23 to pursue independence in her life and her art. Upfront, uncompromising, but slightly uncertain maybe? ‘This is me’, she seems to be saying; ‘there’s no turning back’.

Show full caption Hide full caption

Watch

Nora Heysen started painting as a child, encouraged by her father Hans Heysen to find her own way as an artist. ‘It is very hard to find what is true to oneself. One’s own individual way of saying something is the important thing.’

Interview with Nora Heysen
Video: 2 minutes

Read

Andrew Sayers described 2004 National Portrait Gallery and University of Queensland Art Museum exhibition To Look Within: Self Portraits in Australia as ‘the first comprehensive survey of self-portraits in Australia, from the colonial period to the present’.

Explore other self-portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection.

Solo Activity

Over to you. Drawing on everything you have learnt about portraiture, this is your opportunity to create your own. 

Using any medium you choose (photography, painting, drawing, collage, etc.) create a self-portrait. You may wish to review some of the ideas we have explored over the last couple of weeks as inspiration, to help you decide how to represent yourself.

Connected activity

Portraits are about people and stories, so your portrait needs a biography.

Ask a friend to write the biography to go with your self-portrait. If your friend has also been doing The Amazing Face program, you could each write a biography for one another.

Share your portrait with us

The team at the NPG who put all of this together would love to see what you’ve created! We invite you to submit an image of your self-portrait to theamazingface@npg.gov.au and receive your The Amazing Face digital badge. Please share both on your social channels! Remember to tag us @PortraitAu and use the hashtags #TheAmazingFace #PortraitureComesHome

CONGRATULATIONS!

You have completed your 14 day dive into portraiture.

But just remember, surfacing too fast from a dive is a health hazard! You can stay safely immersed in the wonderful world of portraiture on portrait.gov.au, with an ocean of artworks, videos, articles and stories of inspiring Australians on offer. And look out for our other special socially-distanced portrait packages for all the family on our website, under #PortraitureComesHome.

Related information

Nora Heysen

'This peaceful spot'

Portrait story

Australian artist, Nora Heysen, discusses her childhood and the development of her career.

Australian Love Stories online

Always available

Lust and longing, drama and devotion, seduction and scandal! Delve into an enticing array of tales of the heart.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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 both past and present.

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

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency