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LONGSTAFF, Sir John Campbell (1861-1941)

LONGSTAFF, Sir John Campbell (1861-1941)

Painting of George Morrison by Sir John Longstaff.

Painting of George Morrison by Sir John Longstaff.

John Longstaff, artist, was the creator of the portrait oil painting of Dr George Morrison (1830-1898) displayed in the Senior School Dining Hall. It was painted from a photograph of Morrison. The portrait was presented to the School by George Morrison's daughter, Mrs May Alice Higgins (1860-1944) in 1934. Sir John Longstaff visited the School on 23 February 1934 to supervise the hanging of this portrait.

Born at Clunes to parents Ralph Longstaff, a storekeeper from England and Jessie nee Campbell from Scotland, Longstaff showed an early artistic talent, winning his first drawing prize in 1873. He studied at the National Gallery of Victoria from 1882. After winning the first of the Gallery’s travelling scholarships in 1887, he left for Europe working and studying, firstly in France, and then London from 1893, before returning to Australia in 1895. He returned to London in 1901 where his career as a portraitist blossomed. He depicted notable subjects such as King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1904. At the outbreak of World War I, he was appointed an Official War Artist and was at the front line in 1918 to depict the AIF in France and to paint portraits of military leaders. He continued to paint portraits of military leaders into the early 1920s.

Longstaff won the Archibald Prize for portraiture five times in: 1925, 1928, 1929, 1931 and 1935. From 1924 to 1925 he was President of the Victorian Artists Society. In 1926, Longstaff was elected president of the Australian Art Association and in 1927 was appointed a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria. He became, in 1928, the first Australian artist to be knighted and was awarded the Medal of the Advance Australia Association in 1933. He died in Melbourne in 1941. His creative work is vast and widely held. Several works including the bushfire scene Gippsland, Sunday Night, February 20th, 1898, are held by the National Gallery of Victoria. The Australian War Memorial holds 25 commissioned portraits by Longstaff.

Sources: Artist Profile, AWM; Leigh Astbury, 'Longstaff, Sir John Campbell (1861 - 1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 141-142.
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