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Commemorative paintings

Marcus Beilby (b. 1951), Opening of Parliament House by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 9 May 1988 (detail), 1994, Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection.

The Historic Memorials Collection (HMC) Committee has commissioned commemorative paintings of important events in Australia’s parliamentary history.

One such occasion was the 1988 opening of Australia’s new Parliament House by Her Majesty The Queen. Charles Bush was originally commissioned for this work but died before he could finish his work. In 1992 Marcus Beilby was chosen to complete the commission. As he had not attended the event, he reconstructed the scene from photographs and television footage. His painting, Opening of Parliament House by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 9 May 1988, depicts The Queen's address in the Great Hall, during which she spoke of the significance of the permanent Parliament House:

This is a special occasion for the Parliament, but it is also a very important day for all the people of Australia. After eighty-seven years of Federation, a permanent home has been provided for Parliament, which is both the living expression of that Federation and the embodiment of the democratic principles of freedom, equality and justice.

Two other paintings in the HMC mark significant parliamentary events occurring on 9 May. Harold Septimus Power painted The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of Federal Parliament House Building, Canberra, 9 May 1927 (1928) which features the Queen’s father, the Duke of York who later became King George VI. The second of these commemorative paintings was created by the renowned artist Tom Roberts. The Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia by HRH The Duke of Cornwall and York, 9 May 1901 (1901-1903) is colloquially known as the ‘Big Picture’. This large-scale painting was a huge undertaking and includes over 260 individual portraits, including the Queen’s grandfather the Duke of Cornwall, and thousands of people in attendance. Not officially part of the HMC, this comprehensive painting set the standard for future HMC artists to create recognisable likenesses of dignitaries and capture the significance and grandeur of the occasions.

Currently on display.


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