The Art of Josonia Palaitis

A Distinguished Career

Spanning five decades, Josonia (Jo) Palaitis has enjoyed an accomplished and award-winning career, particularly in the fields of portraiture and photorealism. In 1994 she was awarded the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize with a moving portrait of her father, artist John Mills. Also regularly selected for the Archibald Prize, her dynamic portrait of renowned Australian cartoonist Bill Leak was the 1995 People’s Choice.

Other highlights include the National Portrait Gallery commissioning Jo to paint a double portrait of Prime Minister John Howard and his wife Janette. And in 2002 Jo was awarded the Childers Memorial Portrait Commission. This large emotive painting celebrates the lives of 15 young backpackers who tragically perished in a hostel fire in the town of Childers, Queensland.

An oil painting depicting artist John Mills painted by her daughter Josonia Palaitis showing her elderly father at the entrance to a door holding a walking stick and looking at the viewer with a spirited smile
"John Mills" oil on canvas 1992

Famous Faces

Other Prominent portrait subjects include Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court who agreed to be Jo’s portrait subject for the 2006 Archibald Prize.  The portrait now hangs at the Supreme Court of NSW.

The prestigious annual Archibald Prize exhibition has featured many of her portraits. Her first entry of Treasurer John Howard was in 1980. Other prominent Australians who have sat for portrait paintings by Jo include Dr Cindy Pan, musician James Morrision, author Thomas Keneally, television presenter Ray Martin, and His Eminence Cardinal Edward Clancy.

Known as the Father of Aboriginal Reconciliation, The National Library of Australia purchased her Archibald portrait of Patrick Dodson for its Pictorial Collection.  

Portrait painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting cartoonist Bill Leak sitting on a stool in his studio with brushes and paints in the background
"Bill Leak" oil on canvas 1995
Bill Leak
Michael Kirby
Ray Martin
Dr Cindy Pan
Patrick Dodson
Previous
Next

Photorealist Still Life

Painted between 2000 -2006, Josonia Palaitis completed a range of still life oil paintings that reflected the sharpening of her portraiture photorealism. Featuring playful compositions of fruit and other produce, some of these striking paintings will soon be available as limited edition reproductions. 

Photorealist Still Life

Painted between 2000 -2006, Josonia Palaitis completed a range of still life oil paintings that reflected the sharpening of her portraiture photorealism. Featuring playful compositions of fruit and other produce, some of these striking paintings will soon be available as limited edition reproductions. 

Photorealistic painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting a full bowl of cherries placed on a wooden floor
Photorealistic painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting a dozen eggs in a carton placed on a brown tiled floor with the lid open

Photorealist Still Life Paintings

Painted between 2000 – 2006, Josonia Palaitis completed a range of still life oil paintings that reflected the sharpening of her portraiture photorealism. Featuring playful compositions of fruit and other produce, some of these striking paintings will soon be available as limited edition reproductions. 

News - John Howard in the Archie 100

In 1980 Josonia Palaitis entered her portrait of John Howard into the Archibald Prize.  The painting was a popular inclusion as the public were able to see the then Federal Treasurer, always seen in a conservative suit, relaxing on a garden bench wearing shorts and sandals.

Forty years later it is back on public display as part of the Archie 100, a celebration of the Centenary of the Archibald Prize. It will be exhibited alongside some of the most famous and celebrated Archibald entries and winners. The exhibition begins at the Art Gallery of NSW in June 2021 before setting off on a National Tour which concludes at the National Portrait Gallery in 2024.

Of the portrait, Jo recollected how ‘Mr Howard arrived for the Sunday afternoon portrait sitting straight from a playing a game of tennis.  It was my only opportunity for taking photos,’ the artist explained. ‘Check shorts with paisley shirt! I pounced on the added opportunity to do something unexpected.’

Oil painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting politician John Howard sitting on a bench in front of a brick wall wearing sandals, shorts and a short-sleeved paisley blue shirt
"The Honourable John Howard MP" 1979

News - John Howard in The Archie 100

In 1980 Josonia Palaitis entered her portrait of John Howard into the Archibald Prize.  The painting was a popular inclusion as the public were able to see the then Federal Treasurer, always seen in a conservative suit, relaxing on a garden bench wearing shorts and sandals.

Forty years later it is back on public display as part of the Archie 100, a celebration of the Centenary of the Archibald Prize. It will be exhibited alongside some of the most famous and celebrated Archibald entries and winners. The exhibition begins at the Art Gallery of NSW in June 2021 before setting off on a National Tour which concludes at the National Portrait Gallery in January, 2023.

Of the portrait, Jo recollected how ‘Mr Howard arrived for the Sunday afternoon portrait sitting straight from a playing a game of tennis.  It was my only opportunity for taking photos. Check shorts with paisley shirt! I pounced on the added opportunity to do something unexpected.’

Oil painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting politician John Howard sitting on a bench in front of a brick wall wearing sandals, shorts and a short-sleeved paisley blue shirt
"The Honourable John Howard MP" oil on canvas 1979

The Childers Memorial Portrait

Before dawn on the 23rd of June 2000 a fire broke out in the historic Palace Building in Childers, Queensland. Converted into a backpacker’s hostel and popular with seasonal fruit-pickers, young people from all over the world were staying there at the time.

Jo’s painting depicts the fifteen young souls who perished that night and is on permanent display at the Childers Memorial alongside fellow artist Sam di Mauro’s moving glass installation.

If you have the opportunity to visit Childers, please take some time to visit the memorial. For a full examination of the tragedy with interviews of survivors and everyone involved in the aftermath and recovery, please listen to Paul Cochrane’s emotive podcast “Childers – The Full Story”.

An oil painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting 15 young backpackers who died in a fire in Childers Queensland and they are shown gathered taking a break from fruit picking with red soil and in the foreground and vegetables growing in the distance with a everyone smiling all in casual dress
"Taking a Break in the Field" oil on canvas 2002

The Childers Memorial Portrait

Before dawn on the 23rd of June 2000 a fire broke out in the historic Palace Building in Childers, Queensland. Converted into a backpacker’s hostel and popular with seasonal fruit-pickers, young people from all over the world were staying there at the time.

Jo’s painting depicts the fifteen young souls who perished that night and is on permanent display at the Childers Memorial alongside fellow artist Sam di Mauro’s moving glass installation.

If you have the opportunity to visit Childers, please take some time to visit the memorial. For a full examination of the tragedy with interviews of survivors and everyone involved in the aftermath and recovery, please listen to Paul Cochrane’s emotive podcast “Childers – The Full Story”.

An oil painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting 15 young backpackers who died in a fire in Childers Queensland and they are shown gathered taking a break from fruit picking with red soil and in the foreground and vegetables growing in the distance with a everyone smiling all in casual dress
"Taking a Break in the Field" oil on canvas 2002

Remembering

In 1994, Jo won the Doug Moran Portrait Prize with a portrait of her father, artist John Mills. Being an aquisitive prize, this portrait now resides at the Tweed River Art Gallery with many other Doug Moran Portrait Prize winners. It was painted after he had suffered a stroke and captured the indomitable spirit of one of the Womens Weekly’s longest serving illustrators. He is standing in the doorway to their home with his wife Pat (Jo’s mother) standing behind him in the shadows.

In 2002 Jo was again selected as a finalist for the Doug Moran Prize, this time with a portrait of her mother, who sat for the portrait shortly before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Sensing an imminent change in her mother, Jo wanted to grasp her feisty spirit and depict this as the essence of the portrait.

In 2004, the Tweed River Art Gallery purchased this portait and now the two are together as part of the collection, reunited and remembered.

An oil painting depicting artist John Mills painted by her daughter Josonia Palaitis showing her elderly father at the entrance to a door holding a walking stick and looking at the viewer with a spirited smile
"John Mills" 1992
An oil painting depicting artist John Mills painted by her daughter Josonia Palaitis showing her elderly father at the entrance to a door holding a walking stick and looking at the viewer with a spirited smile
"John Mills" 1992
An oil painting by Josonia Palaitis depicting her elderly mother sitting on a couch with coloured knitted blankets behind her holding a messy ball of string and looking anguished
"The Artist's Mother" 1999

Archive coming soon

A more in-depth record of exhibitions and past events will be added soon. 

ABOUT

GALLERY

CONTACT