Case Studies

Case Study: John and Janette Howard

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                In Jo Palaitis' studio  

The National Portrait Gallery commissioned Josonia Palaitis to paint the Prime Minister and Mrs Howard in 1999. The work went on public display in late August 2000.

Working Method

This portrait involved 650 hours of meticulously detailed work. Jo began with the first of many consultations with the subjects. Several photo shoots followed: Kirribilli House grounds; various harbour environments; and several hours with the subjects in the grounds of Kirribilli House. Over 200 photographs of the subjects were then laid out, scrutinized and grouped. Several watercolour studies followed. One study was favoured by both artist and subjects, and this became the key guiding image throughout. A linen canvas was drawn up in charcoal. The first acrylic paint was applied, starting with the areas of darkness, the subjects’ faces and the main colours of the figures. Once the entire canvas was blocked in, painting with oils began. Every aspect of the painting was then developed in sequential ‘rounds’ of painting across the whole work. Much of the final painting was done using very fine brushes, sometimes under a magnifying glass. Working in oil Jo was mindful of the drying time, and so kept a series of detailed diaries.

The Hon. John Howard (b. 1939), is the current Prime Minister of Australia. A lawyer by profession, he was elected as the Federal Member for Bennelong in 1974, and has been returned to the Parliament at every Federal election since. He served over five years as Treasurer in the Fraser government, and spent two separate periods as Leader of the Opposition before being sworn in as Prime Minister in March 1996. Mr Howard met Janette Parker through the Young Liberals. They married in 1971, and have three children. Mrs Howard, a former teacher, is Chief Patron of the National Portrait Gallery.

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