Chief Justice portrait makes Archibald finals

3rd May 2018

A portrait of the first woman Chief Justice of the High Court, the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC, has been selected as a finalist in the prestigious 2018 Archibald competition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The portrait was commission by the team behind the First 100 Years campaign, an initiative in affiliation with the Law Society of NSW and the Women Lawyers Association of NSW, which aims to celebrate women working in law in NSW and their achievements.

This year marks the centenary of women being allowed to practise law and stand for parliament in NSW due to legislation passed in November 1918, the Women’s Legal Status Act.

Rachel Scanlon, who is leading the First 100 Years campaign, said she was thrilled the portrait had been recognised, especially in the centenary year of the change of the law.

The portrait, oil on linen, has been painted by artist Yvonne East, and sponsored by the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

“Given the historical milestone of the centenary, and the symbolism of women achieving success in the name of justice and honour, this achievement is particularly significant,” Scanlon said.

East conducted the sitting with Chief Justice Kiefel in her chambers at the High Court of Australia.

“My hope was to capture the commanding and graceful presence of the Chief Justice and her love of stylish shoes,” East said.

“Her incredible intellect is represented by the books behind her. There are 100 books: one for each of the 100 years being commemorated. Their spines are blank to represent the anonymity of the many women who have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. This portrait represents the strength and honour of women in powerful positions, combined with femininity and order.”

East was born in regional South Australia, and lived and worked there until 2014 when she moved to Sydney with her eight-year-old son to complete a Masters of Fine Art at UNSW Art and Design. This is her first time in the Archibald Prize.

The portrait will be on display at the Art Gallery of NSW from 12 May.