Portrait of Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC CVO MBE
Avril Thomas was commissioned by National Portrait Gallery (Australia) to paint Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC CVO MBE during her second term as Governor in South Australia.
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC CVO MBE the former sprinter, was Governor of South Australia from 2001 to 2007. The ‘Lithgow Flash’ won Olympic gold medals in the 100m and 200m at Helsinki in 1952, becoming the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal for track and field and the first Australian to win an Olympic gold medal on the running track since 1896. Between 1950 and 1954 she won every State and Australian title for the 100 yards and 220 yards. She broke world sprint records ten times and garnered seven Commonwealth Games gold medals. Sportsman of the Year in 1952, in 1953 she was awarded an MBE for her services to athletics. Since the death from leukaemia in 1977 of her husband, Peter Nelson, she has been dedicated to securing funds to sponsor research into the disease, raising several million dollars for facilities in Adelaide.
Two preparatory drawings were made in charcoal, but only one was sent to the NPG.
The Oil painting portrait is 6’x5’and includes items which speaks of her role as Governor and also as her life as an Olympian. Her running spikes/ shoes made of the softest kangaroo hide. The Sydney Olympic Torch, a maquette of a life-sized statue of her which stands in Lithgow. A photograph of her receiving the gold medal from Prince Phillip in 1950. A photograph with the gold medal. A photograph of her grandchildren. Plates recovered from the Governors summer residence in the Adelaide Hills after a fire in 1955 (they have the South Australian insignia), The external view of Government House South Australia. Coincidentally the plates and Olympic torch were the same shade of blue.
The painting oil on canvas, was started on a brown ground. Built layer by layer in oil paint, with many hours spent onsite at Government house (when the room was available or painting in situ on the grounds.) Given the size of the canvas, the visual information included and the audience she often had during the making of it. (An artist working alone in a studio is quite different) Avril Thomas chose to leave the face till last, as the crescendo.
When completed the portrait was unveiled at Government House by Mike Rann AC, CNZM, (Premier of South Australia at the time) and Andrew Sayers AM from the National Portrait Gallery, then sent on to Canberra to be part of the permanent collection.
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