Art, like government, isn't easy. When the two are combined, it can be even harder.
That's often been demonstrated by the stories behind the portraits commissioned for the Historic Memorials Collection in Parliament House. Paintings have been rejected, replaced and even vandalised.
Marking 110 years of the collection, Parliament House is now showing some of the more than 260 portraits and studies in its collection.
Julia Gillard is the most recent prime minister to have her portrait completed and hung, says the director of art collections at Parliament House, Apolline Kohen.
Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott's portraits are "in train". Malcolm Turnbull, meanwhile, hasn't had his started his yet.
Kohen says coronavirus might be a factor and that "some people might be more busy than others", but won't otherwise speculate as to the delays.
Plenty of other paintings have been completed - but the process isn't always simple. For example, George Lambert's portrait of Sir George Reid reclining in a chair, painted in Britain, was approved by the Art Advisory Board's London representative, Kohen says.
When the painting was received in Australia, the board found the work to be "particularly unsatisfactory and a caricature upon the distinguished gentleman it is supposed to represent". The portrait was rejected and John Longstaff was commissioned to do another.
Another stinging rejection came when former governor-general Sir John Kerr chose Sam Fullbrook to paint his portrait.
The committee's comments, Kohen says, included that it was "a travesty of a portrait in every sense" and "it is very poor - to [the point of] disgraceful craftsmanship...it bears no likeness at all."
Charles Bush completed the final portrait in 1980.
The whole thing started with good intentions. Tom Roberts wrote to prime minister Alfred Deakin in March 1910 to ask that a collection of visual records be painted to give "faithful representations" of the first Commonwealth leaders. Deakin's successor as prime minister, Andrew Fisher, formed the Historic Memorials Committee at the end of 1911.
It was - and still is - made up of the prime minister (as chairman), president of the Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives, vice-president of the Executive Council, leader of the opposition, and leader of the opposition in the Senate.
The collection is intended to represent the bodies by which Australia is governed. It includes portraits of Australia's heads of state, governors-general, prime ministers, speakers of the House of Representatives, presidents of the Senate and justices of the High Court.
Also included are parliamentary "firsts" and sometimes a distinguished person or special occasion, such as the opening of Parliament by the Queen in 1988.
The committee asks proposed sitters to choose from a list of artists supplied by the Art Advisory Board, which since 1998 has made made up of representatives from the National Portrait Gallery (originally representatives were from the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, then from 1972 the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council).
"The rules include that the painting has to be oil on canvas," Kohen says.
After a preparatory sketch in oils is approved, the work proceeds and the result must be accepted by the committee, the board and the sitter.
The first portrait commissioned for the collection was of Sir Henry Parkes, who was painted by Julian Ashton in 1913. Ashton produced a replica of a portrait he had done in 1890.
The committee can also purchase an existing work, as happened with Clifton Pugh's 1972 Archibald Prize-winning painting of Gough Whitlam.
Pugh is the only artist whose official portrait won the Archibald Prize, although other Archibald winners have been commissioned.
In Vincent Fantauzzo's portrait of her, Gillard chose to have her face framed tightly to, she said, "entirely take clothes out of the equation".
Things don't always run so smoothly.
Five artists attempted to paint a portrait of William Morris "Billy" Hughes. Apparently exasperated, Hughes said, "I'm not an artist; I'm merely the miserable victim of them. Let the artists do their best or worst; my withers are unwrung."
The story doesn't end there: according to Kohen, "there was some controversy between Hughes and the committee in relation to the final one".
Hughes liked the portrait by Norman St Clair Carter more - or perhaps disliked it less - so it was hung during his lifetime; after he died, the committee's preferred portrait of Hughes, by George Lambert, replaced the Carter.
Another portrait was also replaced, but for a very different reason.
In 1954, Charles Wheeler's 1946 portrait of Robert Menzies was slashed by an unidentified person.
The painting was repaired and given to the Art Gallery of Ballarat.
"The second portrait, done in 1955 by Ivor Hele, is with us," Kohen says - and, on loan, so is the Wheeler work.
Among the notable "firsts" painted have been the first women elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate - Dame Enid Lyons and Dame Dorothy Tangney, respectively. Sir William Dargie, who painted Lyons, completed a record 11 portraits for the HMC. Other firsts painted include the first Indigenous parliamentarian and senator, Neville Bonner, and the first female Indigenous parliamentarian and senator, Nova Peris.
As for who will paint Rudd, Abbott, and Turnbull, and what the results will be, we can only wait and see.
- The Historic Memorials Collection exhibition is on at Parliament House until May 15. aph.gov.au.
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