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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Dr Joseph Brown with Two Typists

1996
Noel McKenna

enamel on canvas (150 cm x 180 cm)

Joseph Brown AO OBE (1918–2009), art collector and art dealer, arrived in Australia from Poland in 1933. He studied painting and sculpture and exhibited his works in the 1960s, but is best known as a gallerist who both fostered the careers of emerging Australian artists and facilitated appreciation of the work of their colonial-era antecedents. Having established the Joseph Brown Gallery in Collins Street, Melbourne, in 1967, he built up one of the finest private art collections in Australia, and made such substantial contributions to Australian art history that he was awarded three honorary doctorates. His gift of more than 150 works to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2004 remains the single most generous donation of artworks to a public collection in Australia.

Noel McKenna is best known for his spare linear style and paintings of everyday scenarios, often featuring animals and interiors. In this portrait he has depicted Brown in a pared-back gallery setting with John Brack's painting Two Typists (1955) in the background. Brown purchased Two Typists for his own collection (the red dot indicating this is also shown in the work) and it was later among the artworks he donated to the NGV. This portrait was McKenna's entry for the 1996 Archibald Prize.

Gift of the artist 2021. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Noel McKenna/Copyright Agency, 2021
John Brack 'Two Typists' 1955 is kindly reproduced with permission from Helen Brack

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

Noel McKenna (age 40 in 1996)

Joseph Brown AO OBE (age 78 in 1996)

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.

Portrait of Brian Dunlop
Portrait of Brian Dunlop
Portrait of Brian Dunlop
Portrait of Brian Dunlop

A quiet moment

Magazine article by Helene Ladomirska, 2006

As Bryan Westwood’s portrait of Brian Dunlop hangs adjacent to Brian Dunlop’s portrait of the philanthropist Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, we see the artist of one work as the subject of the other. 

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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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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