hugo, 2013

3 June 2020


born 1972
hugo, 2013
synthetic polymer paint, gouache, watercolour and ink on polyester canvas

200.0 x 180.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed with title lower centre: - del kathryn barton – 2013 / – hugo –
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: del kathryn barton / 2013 / title – hugo
bears inscription on frame verso: A461X
$120,000 – 160,000

Private collection, Sydney
acquired directly from the artist


Archibald Prize 2013, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 March – 2 June 2013 (Winner), and touring: Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria, 8 June – 7 July; Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, NSW, 13 July – 25 August; Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW, 30 August – 13 October, Hazelhurst Regional Arts Centre, NSW, 19 October – 8 December; The Glasshouse Regional Gallery, Port Macquarie, NSW, 14 December 2013 – 26 January 2014; Tamworth Regional Gallery, NSW, 1 February – 16 March 2014; Albury Art Gallery, NSW, 22 March – 4 May 2014; Shoalhaven City Arts Centre, NSW, 10 May – 29 June 2014, cat. 3

2013 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2013 (illus. n.p. and cover)
Ewington, J., Del Kathryn Barton, Piper Press, Sydney, 2014, pp. 90 (illus.) – 91
Macdonald, J., ‘Portrait of a Prize’, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 9 – 10 July 2016, p. 9 (illus.)
Ross, P. & Litson, J., Let’s Face It. The History of the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 6th Edition, 2017, pp. 145 (illus.), 146, 149, 180
Catalogue text

‘Hugo Weaving is a cultural treasure, an artist in every sense of the word.’1

Undoubtedly one of the most critically acclaimed, eagerly sought-after figures in Australian contemporary art, Del Kathryn Barton holds the distinguished honour of being one of only two women to have twice won the venerated Archibald Prize for portraiture at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.2 As the most coveted of all Australian art prizes, the Archibald is arguably the nation’s defining cultural event - unique not only in its engagement of audiences across a broad cross-section of society, but for its ability to confer instant fame, even notoriety. Thus in 2008, when Barton was awarded the Prize with you are what is beautiful about me, 2008 (a tender self-portrait celebrating her love for her two children Kell and Arella), she was subsequently launched into the national spotlight as a leading artistic figure and media phenomenon. Such exceptional status was only reconfirmed five years later when she again won the Prize in 2013 for her pensive portrayal of internationally renowned Australian actor, Hugo Weaving AO. Given such prestige, it is with great honour therefore, that Deutscher and Hackett is pleased to offer the iconic hugo 2013 to the market for the first time here.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton received her Bachelor of Fine Art from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales in 1993, and has exhibited widely in various solo and group exhibitions since, both locally and abroad. Prominent among Barton’s many extraordinary achievements is a major retrospective ‘The Highway is a Disco’ held at the National Gallery in Victoria in 2017; a commission from publishing house Art and Australia to create a series of works reimagining Oscar Wilde’s poignant tale, The Nightingale and the Rose (which were later converted into a hauntingly beautiful, award-winning feature film of the same name); and several successful collaborations with innovative fashion label, Romance was Born. Although arguably best known for her richly embellished, often self-referential paintings of imagined female protagonists occupying a euphoric inner realm full of fantasy, wonder and fear, Barton nevertheless appreciates the discipline of portraiture and repeatedly returns to the genre for the honesty that it imbues in her work more broadly as a result. As she reflects, ‘It kills me, I find it so hard, but I do like to do it once a year… It keeps me honest about what I think my weaknesses potentially are. I think you’ve got to be really tough on yourself in that way, because the longer you’re making work, the work becomes mannered and formulaic. For me, portrait projects force me to look in a more disciplined way.’3

A passionate film and theatre buff, Barton had long admired Weaving for his consummate performances in blockbusters such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; The Matrix; and the Lord of the Rings trilogies, as well as many smaller, local film projects and plays for the Sydney Theatre Company. Honoured when he agreed to sit for the portrait, Barton recalls that she ‘…had hoped to portray a sincere, deep, generous and creative soul’4 - and certainly, hugo 2013 would seem to encapsulate that aspiration well. Featuring the actor staring impassively out of the left of the picture, the power of the portrait begins from the extreme simplicity and pared-back way in which his body has been depicted; he is the least painted, least visually dense element in the entire composition, portrayed with an enviable tranquility and stillness, while all around him brightly coloured, energetic fields of paint and actively curling vines pulsate and envelop.5 As Julie Ewington elucidates, ‘…only his eyes, enlivened by crisp darts of pure white, are made to flash in that fixed face, and the left temple is warmed by a delicate wash of pale rose.’6

Interestingly, before embarking upon the final canvas, Barton completed - with the assistance of her longtime colleague, photographer Nick Watts - a series of five photographic portraits of the actor. Attesting not only to her willingness to experiment with a variety of media but also, to the rigorous nature of her practice which involves a process of constant distillation and refinement, the photographs display Weaving as Barton had originally conceived of painting him: ‘Initially I had considered a very simple pictorial approach for Hugo, a bearded man in a black suit. But when we sat down to discuss the portrait I was enchanted by the rich content of his stories and felt moved to interpret and assemble a kind of personalised symbology within his portrait.’7

Thus, in a manner akin to Medieval or early Renaissance portraiture where the sitter is exemplified by their attributes, so too Barton here invokes symbols that reveal Weaving’s unique personality - perhaps even more than his representation reflects his appearance. The huge green lilli pilli leaves decorating the actor’s chest become his lungs, recalling illustrations from ancient medical texts and evoking his connection with nature, while the wild feline companion shares his same russet-coloured hair, and perhaps also links to his partner, Katrina (‘Kat’)8. As Barton elaborates, ‘…with Hugo there was so much content there - we talked about the green man in pagan history, and we talked about the weeping lilli pilli, which is a tree that he’s planted at his property which is very close to his heart. When he was talking about animals that he might potentially identify with there was the idea of the wildcat or the leopard or the wolf... So in the end it was a kind of generic wildcat to represent other facets of his personality.’9

With its embedded symbolism, deep sonorous palette and lavish botanic adornment, hugo 2013 features among the crowning achievements of Barton’s career. Alluding to a lively mind and elusive wild streak beyond his ostensibly calm and controlled facade, indeed the portrait offers a rare glimpse into Weaving’s unique inner world and personality - paying eloquent homage to him not just as one of the country’s most successful artistic talents but equally inspiringly, as ‘…a sincere, deep, generous and creative soul’.


1. See Barton’s statement:
2. Judy Cassab was the first female artist to win the Archibald Prize twice (in 1960 and 1968).
3. Barton cited in Spring, A., ‘Shifting focus: an artist strikes out in a different direction,’ Vogue Australia, May 2013, p.118.
4. Barton’s statement, op.cit.
5. Ewington, J., Del Kathryn Barton, Piper Press, Sydney, 2014, p.91
6. ibid.
7. Barton’s statement, op.cit.
8. Ewington, op.cit.
9. Barton cited in Boland, M., ‘Barton scores an Archibald double as she weaves her magic with Hugo’, The Weekend Australian, 23-24 March 2013, p.7