The rabbi’s portrait takes the Archibald Prize…watch it on TV

June 29, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The transition of a White Australia to a multicultural saw the style of the famous Archibald Prize change with the times and in 1961, a portrait of the Great Synagogue’s spiritual leader Rabbi Israel Porush winning the country’s most prestigious art award.

The portrait of Rabbi Porush [detail]

This evening at 8:30pm, ABC will screen the third and final program on the Archibald made by Mint Pictures headed by award-winning Adam Kay and Dan Goldberg.

Actress Rachel Griffiths has been the tour guide on the documentary’s subject and tonight she visits the Great meeting up with Rabbi Dr Ben Elton who introduces her to the Archibald-winning portrait painted by William Pidgeon.

She said: It was all about the journey plunging through a century of fascinating and revealing Australian stories as reflected through our annual facefest. I hope it provokes discussion and debate.”

Dan Goldberg said:  “The 1961 Archibald-winning portrait of Rabbi Porush came to my attention in the course of researching for this series. A rabbi winning a celebrated portrait prize in the early 1960s? When the White Australia policy was still official protocol? It did seem to mark a moment when the Archibald was perhaps beginning to reflect the changing face of Australia. But as Rachel Griffiths rightly acknowledges to Rabbi Benjamin Elton at the Great Synagogue in episode 3, Jews have been here since the First Fleet yet it took till the 1960s to be recognised as what a ‘distinguished’ Australian looks like.

There’s an epic footnote to the story of this winning Archibald. It was painted by William Pidgeon and was his second Archibald win. His 1958 winning portrait of legendary journalist Ray Walker was stolen – not once, not twice but three times! And it is still missing.”

The program will be available on iView.




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