Apart from recording Australia’s political history, the Collection also reveals changes in the history of portraiture in Australia. Portraits from the early twentieth century were often sombre in tone and reflected the dignity of the office held by the sitter. Over time, portraits have tended to become less formal and capture more of the personality of the sitter, sometimes including objects of personal significance.
Portraits have also been commissioned or purchased of individuals who in some manner represent a parliamentary “first” such as the first Indigenous Australian elected to Parliament, the first woman elected to the House of Representatives and the first woman elected to the Senate.
The Collection also includes paintings of significant events in parliamentary history, such as openings of Parliament, the first House of Representatives sitting in the New Parliament House in 1988, and the Centenary of Federation Commemorative Sitting of Federal Parliament in 2001. Several of these paintings are on display in the Main Committee Room Foyer on the first and second floors of Parliament House.