Impup of Bankora

An important component of Hele ’s effort to document the war through art was the painting of official portraits of distinguished individuals, usually high-ranking officers. Hele also depicted the men he met ‘in the field ’ as he believed that their characteristics reflected the hardships, torment, loneliness and isolation of war.

Impup of Bankora

Impup of Bankora
drawn in Markham River Valley area, New Guinea in 1943
coloured crayons, carbon pencil, black pencil on paper
55.8 x 37.4cm
acquired under official war art scheme in 1943
(22512)

This portrait shows Impup, a local New Guinean, wearing a medal received for loyal services, as indicated in the lower left hand corner of the drawing. Hele has not emphasised the medal, however, only hinting at it by two faint lines on Impup’s chest. For Hele, the most important aim in this portrait was to provide an insight into Impup’s personality. In order to achieve this the artist has worked extensively on the subject’s furrowed brow and deep facial indentations, re-applying black lines over the red crayon for further emphasis.

Throughout the campaign the Australians were assisted by the Papuan and New Guinean people, who helped to transport supplies and carry Australian casualties through the difficult terrain. Throughout his career Hele demonstrated a talent for portraiture, winning the Archibald Prize five times in the 1950s. Established in 1921, the Archibald Prize is awarded each year for the best portrait painted by an Australian artist.

Questions and discussion
List words to describe Impup’s personality. What qualities in Hele’s drawing evoke these responses?

Explore the role of portraiture during war time. Consider portraits today and discuss how attitudes to portraiture have changed.

The Archibald Prize is a continuing record of changing values and attitudes, not only towards artistic development but also to social and cultural affairs generally. Research the Archibald Prize winners (you may wish to start with the Archibald Prize article on Australia's Cultural Network) and discuss why Hele was a popular choice.

Practical exercise
Draw or paint a portrait of a member of your class. Try to capture the person’s particular characteristics and personality.

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