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

John Brack Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs Everage

oil on canvas

94.5 x 128.2 cm

This painting by John Brack of actor Barry Humphries (born 1934) – as his famous alter-ego Edna Everage – is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. Martin Sharp would also exhibit a portrait of Edna, in the 1977 Archibald Prize.

Brack and Humphries became friends in the late 1950s. Through their own artforms, both artists presented satirical insights into Menzies Government–era conservatism and suburban aspirations. Humphries approached Brack about the portrait in 1968, when his fictitious character, Mrs Edna Everage, had evolved from the shy ‘average’ housewife to the flamboyant and garrulous media personality recognised today, but before she took the title ‘Dame’ in 1974.

Of Brack, Humphries recalled: ‘He was different, and no one knew what to say about his work. Many critics of the time saw it as caricature, but he made a deep impression on me because his shrewd pictorial observations had an affinity with my own theatrical portrayals of Melbourne life.’