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.

Australian Love Stories

4 January 2021

A major new exhibition celebrating love in all its guises. Opening 20 March 2021.

Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown
Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, 2006 (printed 2020) Peter Brew-Bevan. © Peter Brew-Bevan

From the romantic to the platonic, between friends, lovers, creative collaborators and within families and communities – Australian Love Stories is a major new exhibition developed by the National Portrait Gallery – highlighting love, affection and connection in all its myriad forms and permutations.

Drawing on gems from the National Portrait Gallery Collection and other public and private collections around Australia, the exhibition features more than 200 artworks including photography, painting, works on paper and small objects. At its heart are the real-life love stories shared. Using contemporary portraiture and the storytelling intrinsic to the genre, more than 80 stories are featured – from the enduring to the forbidden, familial, platonic, unrequited, obsessive, scandalous and creative, the famous, the infamous and the little-known.

The exhibition includes:

  • Portraits of well-known Australian partnerships – from Kath and Kim to Bob and Blanche, Baz and Catherine to Ruby and Archie
  • Portraits of families, including John Brack’s paintings of his ‘ruffian’ daughters and Vincent Namatjira’s series of portraits inspired by his great-grandfather Albert
  • Dual portraits of some of Australia’s favourite couples – Asher Keddie and Vincent Fantauzzo, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, Nick and Susie Cave, and Kylie Kwong and Nell
  • Iconic works by artists including Rupert Bunny, Agnes Goodsir, Tom Roberts, Charles Blackman, Davida Allen, George Lambert, The Huxleys, Richard Larter and Del Kathryn Barton

A highlight are four new portraits of high-profile Australian couples, commissioned exclusively for the exhibition, including David McAllister and Wesley Enoch, Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes, John Bell and Anna Volska and Jimmy and Jane Barnes.

In addition, Canberra-based glass and mixed media artist Harriet Schwarzrock has been commissioned to create a luminous installation for the Gallery that responds to the theme of connectedness.

NPG Director Karen Quinlan AM said the exhibition presents a selection of significant Australian works from the last two centuries that together offer a rich insight into what it is to be human. ‘After a tumultuous year where being together with loved ones was not always possible, we are excited to present an exhibition that celebrates togetherness, connection and love – romantic love as well as the importance of family and community. We are grateful to be able to work with our institutional colleagues from around Australia, including the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and The National Museum of Australia, and other important collections such as the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, to bring this life-affirming exhibition to fruition’, Ms Quinlan said.

The Australian Love Stories exhibition accompanies Australian Love Stories Online, an interactive exhibition launched in August 2020 as a way for the NPG to continue to engage with audiences during the covid-19 related Gallery closure. The online version allows visitors to navigate their way through a series of stories and portraits, as a choose-your-own adventure. At the end they are given their own ‘love profile’ based on where their love interests led them.

Related information

In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker
In the mirror: self portrait with Joy Hester (detail), 1939  Albert Tucker

Australian Love Stories online

#PortraitureComesHome

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!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

© 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