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Simone Young

2002
Bill Henson

type C photographs on on paper (frame (each): 136.5 cm x 186.0 cm)

Simone Young AM (b. 1961) is one of the leading conductors of her generation. At 25, she became the youngest resident conductor at Opera Australia, and was the first woman to conduct at the Vienna State Opera and at the Bastille Opera in Paris. Director of Opera Australia from 2001 to 2003, she then worked for ten years, from 2005, as the Artistic Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Music Director of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Based in Sussex, England, Young is returning to Australia in 2022 to become the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's chief conductor.

Bill Henson and Young share a love of German Romantic opera, and this connection constituted the foundation of the relationship between sitter and artist. Henson says of the portrait: 'I was interested in the way great music affects us. The sheer force of such beauty causes us to fall in love. It is that love that I wanted to see transform the subject’s appearance. But strangely, to suggest any of this, one must step back … Only across such a distance might one describe such intimacy and such longing.' Young herself has compared the portrait's structure to the three acts of an opera.

Commissioned with funds from the Farrell Family Foundation and the Basil Bressler Bequest 2002
© Bill Henson

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

Bill Henson (age 47 in 2002)

Simone Young AM (age 41 in 2002)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Supported by

Basil P. Bressler (48 portraits supported)

Peter Farrell (1 portrait supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Bill Henson

'Scale and presence'

Portrait story

Photographer Bill Henson describes creating his three part portrait of Simone Young.

Simone Young
Simone Young
Simone Young
Simone Young

Conduct becoming

Magazine article by Penelope Grist, 2017

Penelope Grist speaks to Bill Henson and Simone Young to discover the origins of the artist’s stunning photographic triptych.

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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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