John Longstaff

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Portrait of John Longstaff by fellow war artist George James Coates, 1918, National Library of Australia

Sir John Campbell Longstaff (10 March 1861 – 1 October 1941) was an Australian painter, war artist and a five-time winner of the Archibald Prize. He was a cousin of Will Longstaff, also a painter, as well as a war artist.


Longstaff was born at Clunes, Victoria, second son of Ralph Longstaff, storekeeper and Janet (Jessie) Campbell. John was educated at a boarding school in Miners Rest and Clunes State School. He later studied at the Melbourne National Gallery School, after his father initially disapproved of his artistic ambitions.[1] Longstaff's talent was recognised by George Folingsby.[1] He married Rosa Louisa (Topsy) Crocker on 20 July 1887.

He won the National Gallery of Victoria's first travelling scholarship for his 1887 narrative painting Breaking the News (which inspired a 1912 film of the same name), and John and his wife sailed from Melbourne for London in September 1887. In January 1888 they travelled to Paris, where John exhibited in the Paris Salon. He later moved to London, where he painted many portraits. He returned to Australia in 1894 and was given several commissions. He occupied a studio at Grosvenor Chambers in Melbourne from 1897 to 1900. The National Gallery of Victoria assumed ownership of The Sirens under terms of the scholarship and bought his large landscape Gippsland, Sunday night, 20 February 1898. He travelled to London again in 1901, where he exhibited with the Royal Academy.

Longstaff was appointed an official war artist with the Australian Infantry Force in the First World War. He made several portraits of officers in the military. On his return to Australia he won several awards and was given distinguished positions, such as his appointment to President of the Victorian Artists Society in 1924 and Trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1927. He was knighted in 1928, the first Australian artist to have had this honour.

His 1929 portrait of the artist Ellis Rowan was the first national portrait of an Australian woman.[2]

The Art Gallery of South Australia holds his portraits of Paris Nesbit[1] and The Artist's Wife.


His biography Portrait in Youth, written by Nina Murdoch was published in 1948. His 1920 portrait of Nina Murdoch hangs in Reading Room of the National Library, Canberra.[3]

Archibald prize[edit]

His Archibald Prize winning pieces:

  • 1925 - Portrait of Maurice Moscovitch
  • 1928 - Portrait of Dr Alexander Leeper
  • 1929 - W A Holman, KC
  • 1931 - Sir John Sulman
  • 1935 - A B ('Banjo') Paterson



  1. ^ a b Percival Serle, ed. (1949). "Longstaff, Sir John". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  2. ^ Sydney Morning Herald 6 December 1929
  3. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
William Beckwith McInnes
Archibald Prize
for Portrait of Maurice Moscovitch
Succeeded by
William Beckwith McInnes
Preceded by
George Washington Lambert
Archibald Prize
for Portrait of Dr. Alexander Leeper
for W. A. Holman, K.C.
Succeeded by
William Beckwith McInnes
Preceded by
William Beckwith McInnes
Archibald Prize
for Sir John Sulman
Succeeded by
Ernest Buckmaster
Preceded by
Henry Hanke
Archibald Prize
for A. B. ('Banjo') Paterson
Succeeded by
William Beckwith McInnes