Inner Worlds: Portraits & Psychology

13 August – 23 October 2011

Inner Worlds: Portraits & Psychology highlights points of intense connection between psychology and portraiture in Australian art and social history. It includes portraits of influential women and men of psychology from World War I to the 1950s, and portraits by artists inspired by the inner worlds of the subconscious from the 1940s to now.

The exhibition brings together portraits and depictions of faces and figures created in the 1940s by Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan and Joy Hester that reflect psychological trauma, an interest they shared with psychologist Reginald Spencer Ellery. Portraits and imaginary faces created by mental health patients in the 1950s and 1960s, collected by Dr Eric Cunningham Dax, reveal unique experiences of the mind. (These images are legally considered to be medical records and, therefore, the artist-patients’ names are withheld and the works cannot be reproduced but are granted exemption for exhibition within the context of the exhibition.) From the 1980s and 1990s experimental self portraits and figure studies by Dale Frank and Mike Parr explore highly intense mental states. The exhibition’s coda is a new portrait of Australian philosopher of consciousness David Chalmers by artist Nick Mourtzakis, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.

This exhibition will also tour to the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Victoria from 18 April – 22 July 2012.

Curator: Dr Christopher Chapman, National Portrait Gallery

Interpretive Resources

  • Watch online or listen to National Portrait Gallery on Inner Worlds: Portraits & Psychology here   


View 'Art and psychology combine for a portrait exhibition' here

This exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

Albert Tucker(1914-1999)
Psycho 1942
pastel on paper
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1976
Barbara Tucker