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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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Portrait of Kenneth Rowell

1967
David Strachan

oil on canvas (support: 161.9 cm x 97.4 cm, frame: 177.0 cm x 111.5 cm)

Kenneth Rowell AM (1920–1999), artist and theatre designer, left school aged around thirteen and found work as a window dresser, spending his spare cash on theatre and his spare time at the National Gallery of Victoria. He began designing backdrops and costumes during the early 1940s, earning his first professional commission in 1947. Awarded a British Council Scholarship in 1950, he moved to London, subsequently working there and in Australia over the next four decades on more than 140 ballet, opera and theatre productions. In the 1960s, he developed a close association with The Australian Ballet, creating designs for productions including Coppelia (1960), Giselle (1965) and Sleeping Beauty (1973). In the 1970s, he created the sets and costumes for the ballets of Peter Sculthorpe's Sun Music and Rites of Passage, choreographed by Robert Helpmann. At the same time, Rowell developed a considerable reputation as an artist, producing expressionist paintings, mixed media works and sculpture inspired by the Australian landscape. The National Gallery of Australia holds more than 400 examples of his costume design drawings; and in 1999, Opera Australia mounted the retrospective exhibition Double Act.

David Strachan was a Sydney painter who spent much of his working life in Europe. A finalist in the 1967 Archibald Prize, his portrait of Rowell positions the sitter against a stark yellow background, bathed in golden light.

Gift of Margaret Olley 2002. Transferred from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
© Estate of David Strachan

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 Strachan (age 48 in 1967)

Kenneth Rowell AM (age 47 in 1967)

Donated by

Art Gallery of New South Wales (1 portrait)

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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.

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.

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