History week 2013-picture this: Sydney town hall open day corridors of power

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History week 2013-picture this: Sydney town hall open day corridors of power

produced by City of Sydney

In 19th century Sydney, commissioning a painted portrait was a marker of person’s position in society. For those select aldermen on the City of Sydney Council who were elected to the position of mayor, a portrait demonstrated their rank in society but also recognised the rank of office. The City’s Civic Collection contains a rich collection of portraits of former mayors and lord mayors. This open day will be a unique opportunity to explore the ‘corridors of power’ at Sydney Town Hall. Join the City’s Curatorial and History Units to view portraits from the collection. Floor talks will be held hourly from 12.30pm to 3.30pm.

12.30 Laila Ellmoos: ‘Sydney’s Aldermen website’
The Sydney’s Aldermen website – www.sydneyaldermen.com.au – provides biographies of the almost 500 men and women who have served as aldermen or councillors on the City of Sydney Council since it was formed in 1842. Come along and discover some of the interesting people who have served on council and learn more about the website.

1.30 Margaret Betteridge: ‘Every portrait has a story’
This is a unique opportunity to stroll along the Sydney Town Hall’s civic portrait galleries. The portraits reveal a striking diversity between the images of Sydney’s former mayors, lord mayors and lady mayoresses and the changing taste in civic portraiture over the past 150 years. If you look closely, they can sometimes reveal personal secrets and even some taboos.

2.30 Ward O’Neill: ‘Sydney’s aldermen in pen and ink’
Political cartoons and caricatures are highly subjective. What offends some will delights others; but the medium works best when the artist has something to say. Ward O’Neill, an award winning political cartoonist, illustrator and caricaturist with over 40 years’ experience, will showcase his approach to Harry Jensen and Leo Port, two quite different Lord Mayors. Through his interpretive caricatures of these two men, O’Neill will discuss the inner workings of a cartoonist’s mind and compare his work to more conventional portraiture.

3.30 Margaret Betteridge: ‘Not quite up to civic standard’
Public portraits are fair game for critical review. Many portraits err on the side of conservatism so that they don’t offend – but sometimes the most controversial ones actually say more about the way the artist represents them and the person they depict. Sometimes, portraits commissioned in good faith are never hung because of the perceptions about their sensitivities. One portrait in the City’s collection will emerge from the Vault for the day to illustrate that portraiture can be a double-edged sword.

Saturday 14 September
Sydney Town Hall

Bookings not required

Event Snapshot


  • On Saturday 14 September from 12.00 to 16.00

Meet at Town Hall main entrance in George Street at top of stairs.


Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street (cnr Druitt Street) Sydney 2000 Venue details



More Info:

City of Sydney Library
Library Staff

How to get to this event:

Town Hall Railway Station, Sydney Explorer Bus Stop 24, George Street Bus Services.

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Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street (cnr Druitt Street) Sydney 2000


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