We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Winner: Archibald Prize 1951

Ivor Hele Laurie Thomas

oil on board

92 x 61 cm

This Archibald Prize-winning portrait by Ivor Hele of art critic, gallery director, journalist and editor Laurie Thomas (1915-1974) is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Thomas was very pleased with the way Ivor Hele had portrayed him, apparently declaring at the time, ‘It really is a perfect portrait. It really flatters me’. Hele was already an acclaimed war artist and this, his first Archibald win, plus a subsequent four during the 1950s, ensured his reputation and success as a master draughtsman and painter of the human form. Taking only two days to complete, the portrait demonstrates Hele’s remarkable abilities in observation and execution, and his skill at quickly and accurately rendering his sitter’s appearance.

At this time, Thomas had returned to Melbourne from overseas and, after working as an art critic with The Herald, had taken up the role as assistant director to Daryl Lindsay at the National Gallery of Victoria. Thomas had also been researching for the Jubilee Exhibition of Australian Art to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Australia, for which he travelled around the country to meet with artists. Perhaps on a research visit to South Australia is when Thomas would have posed for this portrait, as a work by Hele was included in the exhibition. Hele always required his portrait subjects to sit for him at his Aldinga studio.