Major General Peter Cosgrove

Place Asia: East Timor
Accession Number ART91505
Collection type Art
Measurement Framed: 108.8 cm x 98.5 cm x 7 cm; Unframed: 91.8 cm x 81.5 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description oil on linen
Maker Alberts, Tom
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made 2001
Conflict East Timor, 1999-2013
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

As a Major General, Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove was commander of the Australian-led International Force in East Timor (Interfet). This portrait of Australia's most important leader of recent times continues the Memorial's tradition of recording significant military personnel, which includes more than 2,000 portraits. As the commander of Interfet, which comprised nearly 1,000 personnel from 22 countries, Cosgrove's task was to facilitate the rapid deployment of forces in cases of emergency. Here he is depicted as a man of action, wearing his camouflage uniform and the hat he wore on active service. An immensely popular leader with broad public appeal, Cosgrove appears as a man of the people rather than a decorated hero or the celebrated figure he has subsequently become. It was during the Timor crisis that Cosgrove attained a public prominence never achieved by a military figure in Australia since the Second World War. After returning from East Timor, Cosgrove was appointed Chief of the Army; he was Australian of the Year in 2001 and subsequently promoted to lieutenant general and appointed Chief of the Defence Force. Alberts has captured an accurate likeness of the sitter but also reveals something deeply expressive about Cosgrove's character. The general's outwardly fixed, but inwardly focused gaze is suggestive of his considerable strength as a strategic thinker with an ability to act quickly. Despite the precarious situation surrounding him - conveyed by the turbulent tropical sky rendered in choppy brush strokes - Cosgrove maintains a strong and commanding physical presence. His determination in maintaining peace, and ensuring a fresh beginning for the people of East Timor, is reflected symbolically in the new shoots of grass growing from under the burnt-out building and fallen sheet of corrugated iron in the background. The highly finished quality of the portrait and the precise detail are characteristic of Albert's figurative style.

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