He was named the first Australian of the Year in 1960; Sir Macfarlane Burnet OM AK KBE had been awarded the Nobel Prize in the same year. He was the most decorated scientist who elected to carry out the bulk of his research in this country. At least the Australian of the Year award began strongly. His portrait was painted by William Dargie in that same remarkable year. The portrait is part of an excellent touring exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery called Awesome Achievers : Stories from Australians of the Year. There are 30 portraits in the show; both paintings and photographs. All the subjects were named Australian of the Year.
Three of the subjects double up in the exhibition; there are two portraits each of Joan Sutherland, Dawn Fraser and Cathy Freeman. This attractive, interesting show opened in the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor and tours until June 2017, Toowoomba; in between it goes to galleries in Manningham, Maitland and Townsville. Other ‘awesome achievers’ include Lowitja O’Donoghue by Robert Hannaford, Jock Sturrock by Graham Thorley, and John Yu by Ah Xian.
But there is no more beautiful or touching portrait than William Dargie’s of Macfarlane Burnet depicted working on the influenza virus, inoculating an egg with viral material. The portrait has the unmistakeable Dargie glow also unforgettably a feature of his 1954 ‘Wattle’ portrait of the Queen.
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