Former Vice-Chancellor honoured in portrait by iconic artist

Published 02 September 2011

apettigrewA portrait of former UNE Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Pettigrew by the iconic Australian cartoonist, caricaturist and painter Bill Leak was unveiled this week in the University’s historic “Booloominbah” homestead.

Both Professor Pettigrew and Bill Leak visited the University on Wednesday 31 August for the unveiling of the portrait by the Chancellor of UNE, the Hon. Richard Torbay, along with colleagues and friends from the University and the Armidale community.

Professor Pettigrew, who moved to UNE from a distinguished administrative career in higher education and medical research, was Vice-Chancellor from January 2006 to October 2009. The Chancellor paid tribute to Professor Pettigrew’s significant contribution as Vice-Chancellor, and his commitment to the interests of UNE. He added that Alan Pettigrew and his wife Ann, who accompanied him to UNE for the unveiling, had been generous and well-liked members of the Armidale community.

“It’s wonderful to see you back here among friends,” the Chancellor said to Professor Pettigrew. He thanked him for his contribution to UNE and to the wider community, pointing out that the Armidale Dumaresq Mayor, Councillor Peter Ducat, was among the community representatives who had come to celebrate the unveiling of the portrait.

“We enjoyed our time here very much,” Professor Pettigrew responded. “And it’s a real privilege to have a portrait hanging in this place.”

Professor Pettigrew mentioned a long-standing connection between his and Bill Leak’s families. “Bill’s been known to Ann since she was nine,” he said.

He spoke of his admiration for Bill Leak’s portraits, some of which hang in the National Portrait Gallery. “When I was approached to find an artist, it was without a doubt that I chose Bill,” he said.

Bill Leak has had 11 of his portraits hung in the annual Archibald Prize exhibition – including portraits of Donald Bradman, Malcolm Turnbull, Graham Richardson, Gough Whitlam and Robert Hughes. His portrait of Malcolm Turnbull won the people’s choice award at the Archibald Prize in 1994.

He explained that there was “a level of emotional complexity” in portrait painting that he found “incredibly engaging and endlessly fascinating”, and that painting a portrait of “someone as interesting as Alan” was always exciting.

“I’d known Ann for a long time,” he said, “and meeting her with Alan was like a reunion. They both have a discerning eye, and I was pleased that they both liked the picture.”

The portrait of Professor Pettigrew (pictured here) will hang in “Booloominbah” alongside those of his predecessors as Vice-Chancellor, and is available for viewing by the public.