William Morris Hughes (1862–1952) was Labor and National Party Prime Minister of Australia from 1915 to 1923. Before becoming Prime Minister Hughes helped to found several major trade unions, but the card-carrying socialist was expelled from the Labor party in 1916 for supporting conscription. Thus, he won the 1917 election for the new National Party. During the war Hughes travelled to Europe to lobby for Australian exporters and ensure a political voice for Australia; he returned from a high-profile performance at the post-war peace conferences in the persona of ‘Billy’ Hughes, the ‘Little Digger’. During the course of his life-long parliamentary career, he was also expelled from the National and United Australia Parties, and ended his days in a Liberal seat.
Hughes’s small stature combined with his pugnacious personality to make him a favourite subject of caricaturists. Cuffed trousers were all the rage in the 1920s, but this drawing may well have been made earlier.
Accession number: 2012.187
More about the artist and subject
Permanent collection catalogue
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.