Culture Buff

Wendy Bowman, 2019 by David Darcy Darling Portrait Prize 2020

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

She is not a theoretical or idealogical environmentalist. Wendy Bowman became an activist when her crops were ruined by polluted irrigation water and her cattle wouldn’t eat the grass covered in coal dust. She obtained a Land and Environment Court ruling in 2014 that stopped the expansion of a Chinese-owned open cut mine in the Upper Hunter. Mrs Bowman is again in the news because a portrait of her by David Darcy has been successful in the inaugural Darling Prize at the National Portrait Gallery (on show until 26 July). Unusually, the judges and the public are in close agreement; the portrait was highly commended by the judges and it also won the People’s Choice Award of $10,000.

David Darcy is a newcomer to painted portraits. An accomplished, indeed prize- winning photographer, Darcy only picked up a paint brush for the first time two years ago. He chose his subject well.


He describes the portrait as ‘a picture of a woman who’s been battling for 30 years. Wendy’s 86 years old and had this incredible fight, but she’s also very tired of it all and that’s what I wanted to display.’ Mrs Bowman has said: ‘I just wish I didn’t look like that’. Well, she doesn’t really, but David Darcy has captured something below the surface.

Just last month, Mrs Bowman changed her will to prevent the sale of the property until the mining lease is returned to the government.

Her determination shows in the portrait.

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