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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.

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

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John Landy

c. 1954
Ern McQuillan OAM

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 40.4 cm x 30.3 cm)

Melbourne-born track and field athlete John Landy AC CVO MBE (1930–2022) came to the nation’s attention as a young man in the mid-1950s, as he followed his first Olympic competition at Helsinki in 1952 with a series of extraordinary races over the course of the next four years. Taking the national records (and making personal bests) for the mile, 1000 metre and 1500 metre races between December 1952 and the end of 1953, at Turku, Finland in 1954 Landy became only the second man to beat the four-minute-mile with the extraordinary time of 3:57.9 minutes – a record that would hold for more than three years.

At the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver he won silver in the 1 Mile, and the following year he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to amateur athletics. Competing in his second Olympic Games in 1956, Landy won a bronze medal in the 1500m; however, it was at a meet earlier in the year that he ran a race that would carve a place in the sporting annals of Australia. At the National Championships, during the Olympic trial for the 1500m, Landy stopped and turned back to help his fellow competitor Ron Clarke who had fallen mid-race. After checking on Clarke, and losing approximately seven seconds, Landy continued the race and managed to win with a time of 4:04.2. Landy’s actions in this race were declared the Finest Sporting Moment of the Century by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 2001, Landy was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, and in the same year he was appointed the 26th Governor of Victoria, holding the role until 2006. Landy was the final runner in the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay that year, presenting the baton to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Opening Ceremony. During this visit to Australia, the Queen also appointed Landy a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

This photograph by noted photographer Ern McQuillan encapsulates Landy at the height of his running career, as a young man caught in action on the track at Olympic Park in Melbourne.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 2004
© Michael McQuillan's Classic Photographs

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

Ern McQuillan OAM (age 28 in 1954)

John Landy AC CVO MBE (age 24 in 1954)

Supported by

L Gordon Darling AC CMG (38 portraits 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.

Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert
Betty Cuthbert

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Darling Portrait Prize

Previous exhibition, 2020

The Darling Prize is a new annual prize for Australian portrait painters, painting Australian sitters. The winner receives a cash prize of $75,000.

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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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