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Br Don Gallagher

inducted 2015 The Arts

About Br Don Gallagher


Growing up in Russell's Creek, Brother Don Gallagher received all of his school education at Emmanuel ‘s predecessor schools, St Ann's primary and CBC. He was born in Warrnambool in 1925 into a very religious family and left home at age 14 to join the Christian Brothers. He went on to a long career in teaching at Rose Bay, Albury, Balmain, Goulburn, Bondi and Wahroonga before moving to Canberra.

A watershed moment for Don was meeting Jack Bennett, a local Albury portrait painter who had studied with a well-known artist in Melbourne. At that stage Don had no interest in portraits, but a community member, Brother King, encouraged Don to have a go, offering to sit for his own portrait. Jack Bennett saw the portrait and recognising Don's potential, he offered to give Don a painting lesson in his studio. This demonstration was to change Don's life as he put Jack's knowledge into practice by painting portraits of students, colleagues and friends.

Don became a very accomplished portrait artist who was twice shortlisted for The Archibald Prize. His well-known paintings include his favourite portrait - a portrait of John Morgan - a former auxiliary bishop of Canberra and Goulburn and Catholic Bishop to the Australian Defence Force.

In the 1970's Don was asked to paint a portrait of Edmund Rice - a daunting task, as there were no existing photos or portraits to provide any authentic likeness. Don noticed a devout gentleman at Mass who he thought would make a good model. Don asked if he would be willing to pose for a portrait. The resulting portrait of Edmund Rice has become the most widely used. Recently a scientific reconstruction from Edmund's skull was used to develop a portrait. It proved to be remarkably like the portrait painted by Don. Later Don also developed an interest in landscape painting and was also very talented in this field.

Don donated all of the proceeds from sales of his oil paintings to the Edmund Rice Foundation - a sum in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As a tribute to Don, about 40 of his former students at St Edmund's College in Canberra donated the materials, skills and time to build a studio and gallery for Br Don on the school grounds. Anita Keating, wife of then Prime Minister Paul Keating, officially opened the Brother Don Gallagher Studio Art Gallery in 1994. Don is also the author of three very popular books: See it! Paint it!, A story and painting and 58 years behind the brush and the proceeds of these books have also been donated to a scholarship fund. We recognise Don Gallagher for a life of achievement in the Arts and of service to others.

Don passed away peacefully, at Charingfield Christian Brothers Hostel in Sydney on 1st May 2017 in his 75th year as a Christian Brother.

Br Don Gallagher

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