What prime ministers’ portraits say about our leaders

It’s said that a picture tells a thousand words, but how much of our leaders’ true characters are revealed in artists’ portrayals?
(Edward) Gough Whitlam, 1972, by Clifton Ernest Pugh

Australia has had a total of 30 prime ministers to date. Two of them have served twice – Robert Menzies and Kevin Rudd –­­ and two, thrice – Alfred Deakin and Andrew Fisher. Since 1911, Parliament House has commissioned or purchased a painting of each of them for its Art Collection.

But currently there are only 26 of the 30 portraits in the Parliament House Collection, because former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, as well as current PM Scott Morrison have not yet had theirs painted.

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ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).