Matron Vivian Bullwinkel

Accession Number ART28389
Collection type Art
Measurement unframed: 91.4 x 71.2 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description oil on canvas
Location Main Bld: World War 2 Gallery: Gallery 2: Fall Sing
Maker Bourne, Shirley
Place made Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made 1962
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED (1915-2000) served with the 8th Division’s 2/13th Australian General Hospital. She was the sole survivor of the infamous Banka Island massacre and then endured three and a half years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Bullwinkel is depicted wearing her grey nurse's uniform, red cape and sisters veil.

Bullwinkel retired from the army in 1947 and devoted herself to nursing and to honouring those killed on Banka Island. When this was painted Bullwinkel was the Director of Nursing at Melbourne’s Fairfield Hospital and soon to be the first woman trustee of the Australian War Memorial (1964-69). Her distinguished post-war career and considerable humanitarian achievements are a source of inspiration for generations of Australians.

Shirley Bourne studied under William Dargie at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and this painting was a finalist in the 1962 Archibald Prize for portraiture. This prestigious art award has for over 100 years presented the portraits of Australians distinguished in arts, letters, science or politics. Portraits of Vivian Bullwinkel were also finalists in 1955 (Graham Moore) and in 1960 (Reshid Bey).