Lindsay Thompson portrait

Lindsay Thompson, premier 1981-2
Title Premier Lindsay Thompson
Artist Paul Fitzgerald
Date 1982
Medium Oil on canvas
1270 x 990 x 80 mm
Premier 5th June 1981 – 8 April 1982.

On the resignation of Dick Hamer in June 1981, Lindsay Thompson became Premier and Treasurer of Victoria and served until April 1982, when Labor was elected to government. Thompson had been a loyal Deputy Premier to Hamer from 1972. With his term as Premier lasting less than a year, Thompson is chiefly remembered for his record twelve-year term as Minister for Education, from 1967 to 1979.

Education was significant factor in Thompson's background. His maternal grandmother, Sarah Mills, was one of the first teachers to receive her training in Victoria, registering with the Board of Education in 1865. His mother, who was widowed when Thompson was two years old, was also a trained teacher. Thompson, born 15 October 1923 in Warburton, Victoria, attended Caulfield Grammar and matriculated dux of the school in 1940. During the Second World War he served with the AIF in New Guinea from 1942 to 1945. On his return he studied History and Politics at the University of Melbourne, graduating with a B.A. and Diploma of Education in 1950. Thompson worked as a teacher for four years before entering politics in 1955.

He was elected MLC for Higinbotham and entered Cabinet the following year, serving a record twenty-six years. He rose quickly to significant positions, being appointed both Assistant Chief Secretary and Assistant Attorney General by 1958. He resigned from the Legislative Council to successfully contest the Legislative Assembly seat of Malvem in May 1970 . While Education Minister in 1972 Thompson was faced with the kidnapping of six children and a teacher from the Faraday Primary School and a demand for a million dollar ransom to be delivered by Thompson himself. He did so without hesitation and the episode ended with the safe recovery of the hostages.

Although a sincere and competent politician, Thompson was unable to stem the tide against the Liberals in the 1982 elections when John Cain's Labor government was swept to power with an overwhelming majority. Thompson's Premiership ended twenty-seven years of Liberal party rule. He died on 16th July 2008.

The Artist and the Portrait

Paul Desmond Fitzgerald 1922-

Fitzgerald is a noted Melbourne portrait painter whose commissions abroad include portraits of Pope Pius XXIII, King Hissamudden of Malaya, Vivien Leigh, H.M. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and the Official Jubilee Portrait of Queen Elizabeth for the Commonwealth (1977), which hangs in Marlborough House, London. His portraits of three Victorian Governors, Sir Rohan Delacombe, Sir Henry Winneke and Sir Brian Murray are among the numerous prominent Australians he has painted.

After completing his studies at the National Gallery Art School Fitzgerald spent eight years, from 1949 to 1957, living and painting in several countries including England, France, Italy, Spain, Malaya and America. He is the foundation council president of the Australian Guild of Realist Artists.

Working to his usual method, Fitzgerald had Lindsay Thompson sit five times for this portrait. Having previously considered a suitable background, he spent the first sitting deciding the pose. The next three sittings were devoted to painting the face. On the fifth and final sitting Fitzgerald concentrated on the hands. In all, the painting was completed in three weeks.

While the slender classical columns in the background are reminis:cent of Renaissance classicism and suggestive of an architectural drawing, they in fact make a visual reference to Queens Hall in Parliament House. The backdrop makes for a pleasing contrast with the contemporary figure of Thompson, the modem politician, in his suit and tie.


© Paul Fitzgerald