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Lewis Miller won the 1998 Archibald Prize with a huge portrait of Allan Mitelman, one of Australia’s foremost abstract artists and a former teacher of Miller’s. This is the fourth time Miller has painted Mitelman for the Archibald Prize.
‘It was Allan who suggested I do him again’, says Miller. ‘I had intended doing a much larger work but the Archibald came around much earlier this year and halfway through our sittings Allan went to China so I had to adapt the scale.’
‘I have been doing a lot of still life in my normal practice. This is partly a homage to John Brack, whose paintings I admire. In reference to the self-portrait postcard, I saw that as a way to put myself into the picture in an understated way. In that sense, it corresponds to what’s going on in my studio. There is a hidden story in the title. Matisse is the name of Allan’s first daughter. That helped me with the title of the piece, so I included a postcard of Matisse’s painting of a chair in the still life.’
Born in Melbourne in 1959, Miller is one of Australia’s leading figurative and portraiture artists. He won the 1981 Hugh Ramsay Portrait Prize and the 2000 Sporting Portrait Prize with a portrait of football legend Ron Barassi. In 2003 he was appointed by the Australian War Memorial as Australia’s official artist to the conflict in Iraq and spent three weeks there. Miller has been an Archibald finalist on 14 previous occasions.