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Observatory Hill (The Rocks)

Portia Geach Memorial Award 2018

  • This event finished on 02 December 2018

The Portia Geach Memorial Award is Australia’s most prestigious art prize for portraiture by women artists.

The Award was established by the will of the late Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister, Portia Geach. The non-acquisitive prize is awarded by the Trustee for the entry which is of the highest artistic merit, ‘…for the best portrait painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the close date for entries.’


The 2018 winner of the Portia Geach Memorial Award is Zoe Young, with her portrait of film and opera director, Bruce Beresford titled ‘Drawing storyboards.’

Highly commended artists were Gina Bruce ‘Ann Thomson’ (artist), and Nicolette Eisdell ‘Dr. Anne Noonan, psychiatrist & Jungian analyst.’

The Portia Geach Memorial Award 2018 People’s Choice Award winner has been announced as Jude Rae, with her painting Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (Val at 93). The People’s Choice Award of $1,000 is given in memory of Harry & Winifred Macorison by Dr Heather Macorison & Hilary Macorison.



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Sunday afternoons @ 3pm


Sunday afternoons @ the Gallery

Sunday 21 October, 3pm  Join Portia Geach Memorial Award exhibiting artist Tianli Zu along with her sitter Monika Tu, entrepreneur and founding director of the Black Diamondz real estate group, philanthropist and supporter of the arts.

Sunday 28 October, 3pm Join Jude Rae and Gina Bruce, who will be discussing their works in the exhibtion.

Sunday 4 November, 3pm Join Kathrin Longhurst and Kim Leutwyler, who discuss the challenges of painting their life partners.

Sunday 11 November, 3pm Deborah Walker has painted young literature student Georgia Gibbs in the guise of avatrix Amy Johnson.  Susan O’Doherty and Yvonne East have painted self portraits and all will discuss their works in the exhibition.

Sunday 25 November, 3pm Join the 2018 Portia Geach Memorial Award winner Zoe Young along with Pam Tippett as they discuss their differing approach to painting the portraits of well-known sitters – Bruce Beresford, Jess Miller and John Waters.

Sunday 2 December, 3pm Christine Webb will be in a discussion with her sitters, artists Elisabeth Cummings and Robin Lawrence.They will be joined by Sophie Haythornwaite who has painted writer Denise Leith



The Portia Geach Memorial Award was established by the bequest of (Florence) Kate Geach to honour her sister, artist Portia Geach who died in October 1959. Born in in Melbourne in 1873, Portia Geach studied design and painting at the National Gallery School, Melbourne from 1893 to 1896 winning a prize for her nude painting. In 1896 she won the first travelling scholarship awarded to Australian to study at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where she remained for four years. She seemed destined for a sucessful artistic career.

Around 1900, she returned to Melbourne and began experimenting with her art. She eventually focused on figure studies, portraits and atmospheric landscapes. The family moved to Sydney around 1904 settling in Cremorne Point. She painted murals for buildings in New York in 1917, and in 1926 was exhibiting at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She continued to travel widely, visiting New Guinea, Noumea, Tahiti and New Zealand and belonged to the Women’s Club, Sydney, and the Lyceum Club, Melbourne.

Disillusioned by the lack of support from the male dominated art world Portia directed her energies fighting for the rights of women in Australia and painting a banner for the suffrage movement in 1905. She founded and was president of the New South Wales Housewives’ Association. In 1928 she reorganised the association as the Housewives’ Progressive Association. For many years she was also president of the Federated Association of Australian Housewives. In the Sydney Morning Herald and over the radio she frequently expressed her views on such subjects as buying Empire goods, the use of preservatives in foodstuffs, the date-stamping of eggs, the marking of lamb and the high price of milk and bread. Armed with a strong personality, she campaigned against the closed front that she claimed had faced her when she had tried to exhibit her paintings.

Sometimes referred to as the female Archibald Prize, the Portia Geach Memorial Memorial Award is given annually “… for the best portraits painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the closing date for entries”. The Portia Geach Memorial Award seems an appropriate legacy and ensures that, over fifty years after her death, women artists in Australia are encouraged and supported in their endeavours.


Pictured: 2018 Winner of the Portia Geach Memorial Award, Zoe Young Drawing story boards (Bruce Beresford, film and opera director)