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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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Marilyn Rowe

1981
Graham Thorley

oil on canvas (frame: 147.0 cm x 131.5 cm, support: 128.0 cm x 112.0 cm)

Marilyn Rowe AM OBE (b. 1946), former prima ballerina, was the first graduate of The Australian Ballet School to become its director. One of 23 students in the first intake of The Australian Ballet School in 1964, Rowe was invited by Dame Peggy van Praagh to join The Australian Ballet at the end of the year. Promoted to principal artist at the end of 1969, four years later she and Kelvin Coe won silver medals at the Second International Ballet Competition in Moscow. She and Coe performed in New York and London, and became the first Australians to be invited to dance with the Bolshoi, Riga and Vilnius ballet companies. At the end of 1980, while pregnant, Rowe's husband died in an air crash. She went into seclusion, but when her baby was six months old, in response to demands from the dancers, she returned to the company as an adviser to the artistic director. Director of the Dancers' Company from 1984 to 1986, she was on the board of The Australian Ballet from 1994 to 2009, and was Director of The Australian Ballet School from 1999 to 2014.

Painted in Graham Thorley's studio in Trentham, Victoria, this portrait dates from shortly after Rowe was widowed. The young ballerina arrived with her mother, who looked after her baby while she posed in her Giselle costume.

Gift of the family of Graham Thorley in his memory and in tribute to Marilyn Rowe 2010
© Estate of Graham Thorley

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

Graham Thorley (age 60 in 1981)

Marilyn Rowe AM OBE (age 35 in 1981)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Joan Thorley (1 portrait)

Related portraits

1. Marilyn Rowe, c. 1975 (printed 2017). All Robert McFarlane.

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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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