By the 1890s, Henry Lawson had established his reputation as a short story writer and poet with 'The drover’s wife' and 'Up the country'. His writing in The Bulletin helped create the image of the Australian bushman as the epitome of egalitarian and national ideals.
This portrait of Lawson was commissioned in 1900 by JF Archibald, editor of The Bulletin. It was painted in Melbourne shortly before Lawson’s departure for England. Working rapidly, Longstaff captured the poet’s characteristic expression. The finished portrait delighted Archibald and prompted him to establish the Archibald Prize, the non-acquisitive annual portraiture prize first awarded in 1921.
oil on canvas
91.5 x 72.0 cm stretcher; 110.0 x 89.7 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed c.r. on shoulder, red oil "J Longstaff". Dated u.r., brown oil ".../ 1900".
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Commonwealth Exhibition of Australian Art (1901), Vickery's Chambers, Sydney, Jan 1901 -
100 years of Australian painting (1948), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Apr 1948–17 May 1948
A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Sep 1953–25 Oct 1953
Famous Australians by famous Australian artists, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 07 Mar 1964–21 Mar 1964
Referenced in 22 publications
A selection of eighty-two reproductions mainly from the Australian collection and including examples from the British, French and Dutch [Art Gallery of New South Wales], Sydney, 1959, (illus.). plate no. 15
Famous Australian artists', The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1964: Souvenir Catalogue of special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Famous Australians, Adelaide, 1964. cat. no. 21
Julian Ashton., Daily telegraph, ‘National Art Gallery: The Australian Court’, Sydney, 27 Sep 1905, unknown.
Face to face: Australian portraits, Sydney, 1986, (illus.). cat.no. 12
Famous people: a selective who's who from works in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1981, 9 (illus.).
Prue Joske, Debonair Jack, 'Portraits 1895-1901', pg.70-95, South Yarra, 1994, 86-91, 89 (illus.), 110-111, 148, 176.
Lionel Lindsay, Art in Australia [vol. 1, no. 4], '25 Years of Australian Art', Sydney, 1918.
Art of Australia. Vol 1: Exploration to Federation, ‘Individual and national feeling’, pg. 545-610, Sydney, 2008, 589, 590 (colour illus.).
A retrospective exhibition of Australian painting, Sydney, 1953. cat.no. 52
Catalogue of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales 1899, Sydney, 1899. cat.no. 297L
Bernard Smith, 100 years of Australian painting, 'Foreword', pg. 2-4, Sydney, 1948, 6. cat.no. 17
Australian painting 1788-1990, 'Exodus 1881-1919', pg. 126-166, South Melbourne, 1991, 139 (illus.). plate no. 81
Terry Smith, Australian cultural history, 'Populism and Privilege in Australian Painting', pg. 190-210, Cambridge, 1988, 205 (illus.). plate no. 5
100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 96, 97 (colour illus.). plate no. 45
A.G. Stephens, Art in Australia [series 3, no. 2], 'Henry Lawson', Sydney, Nov 1922, (colour illus.).
Bertram Stevens, Art in Australia [vol. 1, no. 2], 'John Longstaff', Sydney, 1917.
Look, Sydney, Oct 2004, 47 (colour illus.).
Unknown, Experience of Nationhood: modern Australia since 1901, Sydney, 2002, 7 (illus.).
Unknown, Portrait in Youth of Sir John Longstaff (1861-1941), North Ryde, 1948, 132 (illus.), 179-182.
Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 11 Oct 1941.
The Mercury, 'Loan pictures exhibition: three artists: Sir John Longstaff', pg. 6, Hobart, 19 Aug 1935, 6.