This exhibition examines the process of portrait-making by the notable Australian artist Jenny Sages, who is well known for her abstract landscapes, scratched and gouged from encaustic wax and delicately coloured with powdered pigments.

Jenny Sages won the prestigious Mosman Art Prize in 1994 and was an adjudicator in 2001.

Along with her abstract works, Jenny has also had a long practice in painting portraits and since 1989 she has been an Archibald finalist eighteen times, and has won the Portia Geach Memorial Award for portraiture twice. During the same period she has been a finalist in the Wynne Prize for landscape thirteen times, winning in 2005 with a perspective on the work titled Road to Utopia.

The exhibition Paths to Portraiture includes the artist’s large-scale portraits displayed alongside preparatory drawings as well as other artworks, objects and materials that inspired and relate to these portraits. Most works in the exhibition are drawn from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and have not yet been on display in Sydney. Sitters include four strong women influential in their fields of endeavour: painter Emily Kngwarreye, author Helen Garner, dancer Irina Baronova, and fashion designers Heide Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke.

Jenny Sages was born in 1933 to Russian parents in Shanghai, and grew up amidst the city’s European expatriates. In her mid-teens she came with her parents to Sydney, but soon left art school there to study in New York. Having returned to Australia, for three decades she worked as an illustrator and writer of fashion and travel features for numerous magazines, including Vogue. In 1983 after a trip to the Kimberley, Sages gave up commercial art and began to concentrate on her visual arts practice full-time concentrating on both abstract and landscape works.

The exhibition is accompanied by a short documentary film commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery from independent director Catherine Hunter and offers a lyrical introduction to Jenny Sages’s inquisitive, intelligent and effusive personality.


Paths to Portraiture learning resource

The National Portrait Gallery has developed a learning resource aimed at Years 7 to 9 Visual Arts which can be adapted to suit a range of levels. This kit is designed for teacher led discussion with students.

Saturday 16 March - Sunday 19 May