Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this gallery may contain the names and images of deceased persons.
The Historic Memorials Collection is Australia’s longest-running commissioning collection. Founded by former Prime Minister Andrew Fisher in 1911, the collection is guided by the Historic Memorials Committee, a bipartisan committee chaired by the Prime Minister of the day and comprised of a number of parliamentary officeholders. The Committee commissions official portraits of the Head of State, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, and Presidents of the Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives.
From time to time, the Committee may also elect to commission portraits of other significant parliamentarians who represent a milestone in the history of the Parliament, e.g. Dame Enid Lyons, the first female parliamentarian or Senator Neville Bonner as the first Indigenous parliamentarian. On rare occasions, the Committee may also commission paintings of significant events in the history of the Australian Parliament, e.g. the opening of Parliament House in 1988.
Early Prime Ministerial portraits were often large in scale and sombre in tone; however, over time they have tended to become less formal and capture more of the personality of the sitter. Often they include artefacts of personal significance to the portrait subject.
Not all portraits are generated through a commissioning process and the Committee is able to purchase a portrait if one already exists. For example, the portrait of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam painted by his friend Clifton Pugh won the Archibald Prize in 1972 and was subsequently purchased by the Committee at the former Prime Minister’s request.
All 25 completed portraits of Australian Prime Ministers are displayed in a chronological order in Members’ Hall, with large scale portraits on display on the mezzanine level of the Main Committee Room Foyer.
Download the brochure: Portraits of Australian Prime Ministers (PDF, 470 KB)