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Observatory Hill (The Rocks)

Portia Geach Memorial Award 2019

  • This event finished on 15 September 2019

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 2019 winner of the Portia Geach Memorial Award is Sally Robinson, with her self-portrait, ‘Body in a box’.

Highly commended artists were Pollyxenia Joannou for “Me, the Irishman and the chair and Victoria Reichelt for La Mere (after Elizabeth Nourse).

The 2019 exhibition will run from 2 August  to 15 September.


Sunday afternoon @ the Gallery

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Sunday 18 August, 3pm Zuza Zochowski and Susan O’Doherty join us to discuss their works in the exhibition. Zuza has painted an intriguing self portrait and Susan has painted fellow artist Tenna McCarthy.

Sunday 25 August, 3pm Dee Smart and Caroline Zilinsky have both painted determined women –  Christa Hughes and Emily Hill – and will discuss the challenges of depicting these personalities in paint.

Sunday 8 September, 3pm Sally Robinson, winner of the 2019 Portia Geach Memorial Award and Sally Ryan, winner of the 2018 Holding Redlich People’s Choice Award from the Salon des Refusés, discuss their paintings in the exhibition.


2019 Portia Geach Finalists

CATHERINE ABEL Duncan’s daughter Phoebe (Phoebe Packington, Student)

ELIZABETH BARDEN Jaya’ism (Jaya Suartika, Artist/photographer/tattooist)

KATE BEYNON Artist-self with Tudo and the studio spirits (Kate Beynon, Artist and teacher)

JOANNA BRAITHWAITE Crowning Glory-Portrait of Susi Muddiman OAM (Susi Muddiman, Director of Tweed Regional Gallery)

MICHELLE CAMPBELL Untitled (Dr Pauline Joseph, Senior Lecturer in records and archive management at Curtin University, WA.)

ANN CAPE Working late in the studio (Sophie Cape, Artist)

LESLYE COLE Willi and Jennifer (Willi and Jennifer Michalski, Ceramicist; Educator/ Mentor)

YVETTE COPPERSMITH Emeritus Professor Anne Green (Anne Green, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics)

JULIE CORFE Harlequin & Pierrot (Paul Henschke, Scientist and wine maker)

DAGMAR CYRULLA Elegance II (Kym Ellery, Global Fashion Designer)

JO DARBYSHIRE Rox De Luca (Rox De Luca, Artist)

SINEAD DAVIES Dreaming (Tanya Lee OAM, Chairperson Corrille Foundation)

MICHELLE DAWSON Rene (Rene Bolten, Artist)

NICOLETTE EISDELL My cousin Harriet (Harriet Clutterbuck ASE, Documentary editor)

ESTHER ERLICH Alma (Alma Zygier, Jazz Singer)

LINDA GOLD His Other Jacket (Professor Julian Gold, Infectious Disease Medical Specialist)

JANE GUTHLEBEN The scratching post (self, artist)

ILDIKO HAMMOND Self-Portrait Close Up (Ildiko Hammond, Artist)

CHRISTINE HILLER Grieving Mother (Self portrait, Artist)

PETA HINTON Derek and Coequosa (Derek Smith, Science- Entomology Collection Manager)

POLLYXENIA JOANNOU Me, The Irishman and The Chair (John Reddin & Pollyxenia Joannou, John Reddin: Producer Film & TV – Pollyxenia Joannou, artist)

NICOLE KELLY Studio nude (self portrait)

ROSEMARY LEE Paradiso (Rosemary Lee, Artist)

KIM LEUTWYLER Trixie Mattel (Trixie Mattel aka Brian Firkus, Comedian, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, drag queen)

KATHRIN LONGHURST Mariama (Mariama Hajaratu, Professional Wrestler)

ALISON MACKAY Self-portrait – Armoured

MARGARET MCKENNA Elizabeth (Elizabeth Laverty, art lover)

MATILDA MICHELL Shah (Shaharin Yussof, Martial arts expert (shihan 5th dan), president and country representative IFK Australia)

RACHEL MILNE Director (Randi Linnegar, King Street Gallery Director)

JUSTINE MULLER When they take our water, they take our blood (Badger Bates, Artist)

SUSAN O’DOHERTY Portrait of Teena McCarthy in Flannelette Shirt (Teena McCarthy, Artist and Poet)

AMANDA PENROSE HART Reg (Chris O’Doherty, aka Reg Mombassa, Artist musician writer)

LORI PENSINI Stellar Violets (Lucinda Giblett, Director – Stellar Violets Life Library Living Museum & Gallery, writer)

RACHEL PERRIN Bruce McWilliam at home – Still working (Lawyer)

VICTORIA REICHELT La Mere (after Elizabeth Nourse) (Victoria Reichelt, Artist)

SALLY ROBINSON Body in a Box (Sally Robinson, Artist)

BRENDA RUNNEGAR Maria (Dr Maria Runnegar, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California)

SALLY RYAN Unchained Melody (Jacqueline Gibson and Ben Ryan, Lawyer and artist)

LYNN SAVERY Self-Portrait (Lynn Savery, Artist)

DEE SMART Christa Hughes (Blues Belter, Rockin Roll Hellcat, Cabaret Chanteuse, Songwriter, Actor and Comedian)

KYLIE MELINDA SMITH Eileen Kramer (Dancer)

LORIBELLE SPIROVSKI Homebodies (Simon Tedeschi, Musician)

ROBYN STANTON WERKHOVEN Eric & Robyn and the Mythical Beasts (Eric Werkhoven and Robyn Werkhoven, Artists and writers)

COLLEEN STAPLETON Solitude (Colleen Stapleton, Artist)

LILLI STROMLAND Tea Time (Georgina Stromland, Architect)

LIZ STUTE The Castle Motel (Self Portrait) (Liz Stute, Artist)

ROBYN SWEANEY Warrior Woman Karla Dickens (Artist)

JILL TALBOT Redundancy package with Ikea cushions and Netflix (self portrait, Artist/educator)

CLARE THACKWAY Self Portrait (Clare Thackway, Artist)

DEBORAH WALKER The Celebration (Compass tragedy) (Georgia Gibbs, Arts Student/Writer)

MIRRA WHALE Another side of Leigh (Leigh Sales, Journalist and author)

LEIGHA WHITE Dr Poelina (Reports from the battle of lower Fitzroy River) (Dr Anne Poelina, Managing Director of Madjulla Incorporated, environmental champion.)

ZOE YOUNG The Collectors (Paul and Suz Isherwood)

CAROLINE ZILINSKY Medusa The Seducer (Emily Hill, Artist, Poet, Wordsmith and Songwriter)

ZUZA ZOCHOWSKI Self Portrait with Green Bricks

TIANLI ZU ‘Keep it all together’ Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of NSW (former President of the NSW Court of Appeal)

MICHELLE ZUCCOLO Self portrait with William (Michelle Zuccolo, Artist/art teacher)


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 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 an Australian to study at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where she remained for four years. She seemed destined for a successful 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.


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