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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.

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Bob Ellis

1999
David Naseby

oil on canvas (151.5 cm x 106.0 cm)

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 (1937-2022) 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 wrote that Ellis ‘loves a stoush’ and that he painted Ellis in a t-shirt because it ‘made him look like the scrapper he is’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds from the Basil Bressler Bequest 2001
© David Naseby

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

David Naseby (age 62 in 1999)

Bob Ellis (age 57 in 1999)

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

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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.

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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.

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