Throughout his career Ramsay often used himself as a model - there are in fact twenty recorded oil self-portraits. This painting is, however, considered to be his most accomplished. In this three-quarter-length, full-frontal self portrait, the artist, wearing a high-buttoned white jacket, stands with his left hand on his hip and in his lowered right hand holds a brush. With its stylish hand-on-hip pose it fits with the tradition of the ‘swagger portrait’ – a tradition that had its origins in the Renaissance but that was also evident in the work of the celebrated portrait painter John Singer Sargent, an influential contemporary of Ramsay’s.

Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia


  • Title: Self-portrait in white jacket
  • Creator: Hugh Ramsay
  • Date Created: (1901-1902)
  • Location Created: Paris, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 92.3 x 73.5 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Presented through the NGV Foundation by Nell Turnbull, niece of the artist and by her children John Fullerton, Patricia Fullerton and Fiona Fullerton, Founder Benefactors, 2002, =A9 National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Place Part Of: France
  • Biography: Hugh Ramsay was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 25 May 1877. His family emigrated to Australia the following year, sailing on S.S. Loch Sunart from Greenoch to Melbourne and arriving 8 June 1878. They settled in Essendon; construction of Clydebank, the family home in Buckley Street, was completed in 1888. In 1891 Ramsay was dux of Essendon Grammar School. In 1894 he enrolled at the National Gallery School under Frederick McCubbin and with Bernard Hall from 1895; John Longstaff became a mentor. He attended landscape classes run by Emanuel Phillips Fox and Tudor St George Tucker at their Melbourne Art School and at 'Charterisville', and for part of 1897 he opened his own teaching studio at 312 Flinders Street. In 1899 he was runner-up to Max Meldrum for the National Gallery Travelling Scholarship, having already won numerous prizes for figure subjects. In 1900 he left for Europe on the proceeds of a raffle of some of his paintings: first to England where he met George and Amy Lambert, then to Scotland. He arrived in Paris in 1901 and, on the recommendation of Longstaff, enrolled at the Academie Colarossi, where he was joined by Lambert. In 1901 one of two paintings submitted was accepted for the Old Salon and in 1902 four out of his five submissions to the New Salon were accepted and hung 'on the line'. The same year, four of his works were accepted for the British Colonial Exhibition at the Royal Institute Galleries, Piccadilly. However, the early success experienced by this young artist was cut short by a diagnosis of tuberculosis, forcing his return to Australia to recuperate at Clydebank. In December his only solo exhibition was mounted for three days at Myoora, the Toorak home of Dame Nellie Melba. He continued to paint and exhibited with the Victorian Artists' Society in 1903 and 1904, also spending extended periods of time resting in the country. He died at Clydebank on 5 March 1906, aged twenty-eight.

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