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Josonia Palaitis The Honourable John Howard, MP

oil on linen

186 x 186 cm

John Howard (born 1939) had been the federal member for Bennelong for five years – and treasurer of Australia for two – when this portrait was painted. It shows him in the Sydney backyard of his neighbour, artist Josonia Palaitis, in a manner that is surprisingly relaxed and starkly different to his usually formal and conservative image.

A lawyer by profession, Howard became leader of the Liberal Party in 1995 and the 25th prime minister of Australia the following year, defeating Labor’s Paul Keating. Howard’s often contentious 12-year tenure is the second longest in history after Robert Menzies.

A graduate of the National Art School and City Art Institute (now UNSW Art & Design), Palaitis is known for her photorealist approach to portraiture, working from informal photographs of her subjects. Creating drawings and watercolour studies, she shares these with her sitters before moving on to the final canvas.