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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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Lieutenant Colonel Kathleen A. L. Best

1943-1944
Charles Wheeler

coloured chalk on artist board (sheet: 31.5 cm x 22.5 cm, image: 28.0 cm x 20.8 cm)

Kathleen Best OBE RRC (1910–1957), nurse and officer, grew up in Sydney where she completed nursing and midwifery training. Having worked at Wyong Hospital, the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children, Sydney, and the Masonic Hospital, Ashfield, she was appointed to the Australian Army Nursing Service, AIF, and posted as matron of the 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital in Palestine in 1940. In April 1941 the hospital moved to Greece where the Anzacs were weathering a German assault and there were constant air-raids. For her courage, Best received the Royal Red Cross in 1942. She spent time in Egypt and Ethiopia before returning to Melbourne. Promoted lieutenant colonel and posted as assistant adjutant-general (women’s services), in 1944 she accepted the assistant-directorship of women’s re-establishment and training in the Department of Postwar Reconstruction. Appointed founding director of the Australian Women's Army Corps in 1951, she was promoted to honorary colonel the following year. After her death at the age of 47 she was given a military funeral in Toorak.

In this portrait of Best, Archibald Prize winning artist Charles Wheeler has captured his sitter's authority as a distinguished leader as well as a hint of her renowned sense of humour in the faint smile. This is one of a series of portraits of reproduced in The Australasian magazine in 1943 and 1944.


Purchased 2019
© Estate of Charles Wheeler

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

Charles Wheeler (age 62 in 1943)

Colonel Kathleen Annie Louise Best OBE RRC (age 33 in 1943)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Military

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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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