Portraits of Chief Justices and the first bench

  • Court 2
  • Sir William (Bill) Alexander DARGIE
  • (1912–2003)
  • Sir John Latham
  • 1952
  • oil on canvas
  • High Court of Australia Historic Memorials Collection

The Rt Hon Sir John Greig Latham (1877–1964) was Chief Justice of the High Court from 11 October 1935 to 17 April 1952. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with degrees in arts and law. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1904 and appointed a King's Counsel (KC) in 1922. He served as Lieutenant Commander in naval intelligence in World War I, and was an Australian adviser at the Paris Peace Conference 1919. He served as Australia’s first ambassador to Japan in 1940–41 and as a Member of the House of Representatives 1922–34, including as Attorney-General (1925–29, 1932–34), Minister for Industry (1928–29), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs (1932–34), and Leader of the Opposition (1929–31). He was President of the first Australian Legal Convention in 1933, and the first Australian Minister to visit Japan in 1940. He was Chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1939–41. He was appointed a Companion in the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1920, a Privy Counsellor (PC) in 1933, to the Grand Cross of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1935.

Former Chief Justices (further information)

About the artist

  • William (Bill) Dargie lived and worked mainly in Melbourne. He studied painting at the Melbourne Technical College under Napier Waller (1932–33) and for a time under Archie Colquhoun (1931–34). He is best known for his portraiture, although he did paint in other genres. Dargie won the Archibald Prize eight times between 1941 and 1956. The last of his winning portraits was of fellow artist Albert Namatjira (1902–59). In 1954 Dargie was commissioned to paint the now famous 'wattle portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth ll where the young Queen wore a dress designed for her 1954 tour of Australia by the English fashion designer Sir Norman Hartnell (1901–79).

    Dargie was an official war artist during the Second World War, and served with the Australian Army in the Middle East, New Guinea, India and Burma during the period 1941–6. A large body of his works is held in the Australian War Memorial collection in Canberra. From 1946–53 he was head of the Victorian Art School at the National Gallery of Victoria. He also served on several gallery boards including for twenty years on the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board. He wrote On Painting a Portrait (Artist Publishing, 1957). Dargie was knighted in 1970 for his services to the arts and Australia and was awarded the prestigious Centenary Medal in 2001. A.C. Colquhoun's portrait of Sir Owen Dixon hangs in Court 2.

    Dargie's portrait of Sir Samuel Griffith is a copy of an earlier portrait by Godfrey Rivers (1859–1925) that hangs in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane. Rivers migrated to Australia in 1889 as an emerging artist. He spent some time teaching in New South Wales and Queensland, before becoming a leader in the arts in Queensland and a champion of the Queensland National Art Gallery which opened in 1895. Sir Samuel Griffith was the gallery’s founding president.