Australian Love Stories opens at National Portrait Gallery

NPG-Rachel-Ward-and-Bryan-Brown-(detail)-©-Peter-Brew-BevanFrom the romantic to the platonic, between friends, lovers, creative collaborators and within families and communities, Australian Love Stories, a new exhibition at Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery highlights love, affection and connection in all its myriad forms and permutations.

The exhibition features more than 200 works from the NPG and other important public and private Australian collections, and relationships formed through a shared artistic passion is one of the key exhibition themes.

Featured are portraits of great Australian art partnerships – from the romantic, including Tom and Lillie Roberts, Rupert Bunny and Jeanne Morel, and Richard and Pat Larter, to lifelong friendships such as those between Judith Wright and Barbara Blackman, Davida Allen and Betty Churcher, and creative collaborators Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson.

“Relationships where art, life and inspiration are intertwined often give rise to the most original and memorable creative outputs,” said Karen Quinlan AM, Director of the National Portrait Gallery. “Throughout history artists have used portraiture to portray their loved ones, revealing in the process aspects of that relationship – familiarities and hints of intimacies and their life together.

“In this exhibition we present iconic portraits by some of our most significant Australian artists, including John Brack, Charles Blackman, Albert Tucker, Del Kathryn Barton, Agnes Goodsir, and Michael Riley to name a few, each of which show the way an artist observes and captures the object of their particular inspiration,” said Ms Quinlan.

Australian Love Stories uses portraiture and the storytelling intrinsic to the genre to feature more than 80 stories – from the enduring to the forbidden, familial, platonic, unrequited, obsessive, scandalous and creative, the famous, the infamous and the little-known. The exhibition includes:

  • Portraits of well-known Australian partnerships – Kath and Kim, Bob and Blanche, Ruby and Archie; the Bradmans and the Seidlers
  • Portraits of families, including John Brack’s images of his ‘ruffian’ daughters and Vincent Namatjira’s series of portraits inspired by his great-grandfather Albert
  • A joyous selection of William Yang’s photographs of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
  • Dual portraits of some of Australia’s favourite couples – Asher Keddie and Vincent Fantauzzo, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, Nick and Susie Cave, and Kylie Kwong and Nell

In addition, Australian Love Stories will see the launch of a series of portraits of high-profile Australian couples commissioned exclusively for the exhibition, including David McAllister AM and Wesley Enoch AM, Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes, John Bell AO and Anna Volska, and Jimmy Barnes AO and Jane Barnes.

The Australian Love Stories exhibition accompanies Australian Love Stories Online – an interactive exhibition launched in August 2020 as a way for the NPG to continue to engage with audiences during the covid-19 related Gallery closure.

The online version allows visitors to navigate their way through a series of stories and portraits, as a choose-your-own adventure. At the end they are given their own ‘love profile’ based on where their love interests led them.

Australian Love Stories
National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Exhibitiojn continues to 1 August 2021
Entry fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown (detail), 2006 (printed 2020) © Peter Brew-Bevan