Guide to the Papers of Clifton Pugh


MS 9096

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Clifton Pugh
Papers of Clifton Pugh
Date Range
1943 - 1991
Collection Number
MS 9096
5.28 metres (15 ms boxes+ 1 archival box + 2 cartons + 6 large folio boxes + 1 phase box)
Language of Materials
Special Collections (Manuscripts)


Scope and Contents

The collection documents Pugh's career over a period of 45 years, but unevenly. It includes correspondence, diaries, legal documents, manuscripts, sketchbooks and sketches, exhibition catalogues, cutting books and photographs.

There is a long series of letters to his mother, 1943-46, and letters from a close friend, Bett Milner, 1944-76. Other correspondence and his Dunmoochin visitors book show his close association with Labor politicians and other public figures. Cutting books detailing his life and work from 1953 to 1990, photographs, and a long run of exhibition catalogues are the strengths of the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Clifton Pugh, National Library of Australia, MS 9096, [series and/or file number]'.


The papers were purchased by the Library from the Dunmoochin Foundation, the Trustees of Clifton Pugh's Estate, in 1996.

The National Library's Pictorial Collection holds 41 photographs of Dunmoochin taken in 1997, and a portrait of Peter O'Shaughnessy by Clifton Pugh.

Biographical Note

Clifton Ernest Pugh was born in Melbourne on 17 December 1924. He was educated at the Ivanhoe Grammar School, the Swinburne Technical College and the National Gallery School of Victoria. A landscape painter and portraitist, he combined a passion for painting with a great love of the bush.

After serving with the AIF in New Guinea and with the Occupation Forces in Japan, 1943-47, he studied with Sir William Dargie at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme. His need for a quiet environment in which to paint led him to acquire in 1951 15 acres of land at Cottles Bridge, four miles from the nearest township of Hurstbridge, and about 30 miles from Melbourne. The 15 acres, which he named 'Dunmoochin', grew to 200 acres as other artists came to join them. The community legally became the Dunmoochin Artists Society in 1953. Pugh's paintings often drew on the bush setting of his mudbrick home and wildlife sanctuary at Cottles Bridge.

When Pugh first moved to Dunmoochin his painting did not provide an adequate income. He worked part time to support his second wife Marlene and their two small children, but interest in his art was rapidly growing. His first exhibition, in Melbourne in 1955, was held with John Howley, Donald Laycock and Lawrence Daws. The exhibition by the Group of 4, as they called themselves, was well received.

Pugh was noted for his portraits of politicians, artists, writers, academics and Labor figures, including his prize winning Archibald portrait of Gough Whitlam in 1972. He had earlier won the Archibald Prize with portraits of Sir John McEwan (1971) and R.A.G. Henderson (1965). Equally acclaimed for his pictures of the bush, one of his best known paintings related to Ivan Smith's radio feature The death of a wombat (1972).

He played a major role in the development of the Australian Labor Party's arts policy, first in Victoria in 1971 and then during the Whitlam years. In 1973 he was appointed to the Australia Council for the Arts, from which he resigned in 1974. With Brian Westwood, Pugh was the Australian War Memorial's official artist at the 75th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landing at Anzac Cove in 1990.

Pugh married three times: June Byford, Marlene Harvey and Judith Ley.

In May 1989 he set up the Dunmoochin Foundation as a perpetual charitable trust, to provide studios for creative pursuits and to preserve the wildlife and native plants of the land he loved. The Foundation, the trustees of his Estate, received the bulk of his estate on his death on 14 October 1990.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Letters to Violet Pugh, 1943-46

This series of about 80 letters, written to Pugh's mother over a period of four years from the age of eighteen, shows the development of Pugh's artistic interests.

Pugh served in the Australian Imperial Force, 1943-47, and saw active service in Australia and overseas. The letters, from Innisfail and Canungra in Queensland, Dubbo, New South Wales, Wewak, PNG, the 'front line' and Japan, were written while Pugh was serving in the AIF.

Letters to Violet Pugh (File 1_5) - Box 1

Series 2. Letters of Bett Milner, 1944-76

Bett Milner's letters are of biographical interest. The bulk of the letters to her friend Clifton Pugh were written in the war years, 1944-46. The remaining letters were written during the period 1971-76. The early letters, the first written when Milner was nineteen, all speak of her feelings of friendship and love for Pugh. References are made to typing Pugh's memoirs which he posted to her in instalments from the war zone. The 1970s letters give news of her family, her husband Hugh, and the weddings of their two children.

Letters of Bett Milner (File 1_2) - Box 1

Series 3. Personal Correspondence, 1943-91

Personal correspondence includes letters written to Pugh while he was on active service in 1944, and letters witten during the period 1959-91. Correspondents include John Olsen, John Reed, Andrew Grimwade, Gustav Nossal, Colin Thiele, Tom Uren, Clyde Cameron, Jim Cairns, Hal Missingham, Ivan Smith, H.C. Coombs, E. G. Whitlam, A.R. Chisholm and Ingrid Murphy. Also in this series are letters and memorabilia from Buckingham Palace, 1975-76, where Pugh painted Prince Philip's portrait.

1943-44 (File 1) - Box 2

1959-67 (File 2) - Box 2

1968-71 (File 3) - Box 2

1971-73 (File 4) - Box 2

1973-75 (File 5) - Box 2

1976-91 (File 6) - Box 2

Buckingham Palace letters, 1975-76 (File 7) - Box 2

Series 4. Subject files, 1957-1990

The correspondence files which were kept by Pugh in subject order mostly date from the 1980s.

The correspondence, both personal and business, is with art galleries, publishers, politicians and fellow artists. There is also correspondence on Dunmoochin, his Order of Australia, the sale of Percy Deane's collection of cartoons to the National Library, the project he initiated to decorate Melbourne's trams, Ivan Smith's The death of a wombat (drawings by Pugh) and other publications, and the swimming pool he had built at Dunmoochin.

Correspondents include John Brackenreg (Artarmon Galleries), Georgina Bolitho (Bolitho Gallery), Judith Behan (Chapman Gallery), Stuart Gerstman (Stuart Gerstman Galleries), Ruth Prowse (Huntley Gallery, Canberra), Brian Johnstone (Johnstone Gallery) Jan Minchin (National Gallery of Victoria), Judy Cassab, Richard Griffin, Keith Hounslow, Peter O'Shaughnessy, Bernard Smith, Clyde Cameron, Doug McClelland, Sir Andrew Grimwade, Arthur Gietzelt, Sue Elbury and Robert Sessions.

Art galleries, 1966-89 (File 1) - Box 3

Bay Books, 1977, 1987 (File 2) - Box 3

Books, general correspondence, 1977-88 (File 3) - Box 3

Craftsman's Press, 1983 (File 4) - Box 3

Percy Deane cartoons, 1977-78 (File 5) - Box 3

'Dunmoochin', 1957-89 (File 6) - Box 3

Environment, 1983-90 (File 7) - Box 3

Fine Arts Gallery, Perth, 1981-82 (File 8) - Box 3

General correspondence, 1984-90 (File 9) - Box 3

Guarantees (File 10) - Box 3

Heinemann, 1984-89 (File 11) - Box 3

Herald and Weekly Times, 1968-78 (File 12) - Box 3

Hotel manager, Hurstbridge, 1987 (File 13) - Box 3

Hyland House, 1989 (File 14) - Box 3

Ink Group, 1989-90 (File 15) - Box 3

Insurance (File 16) - Box 3

Longman Cheshire, 1985-88 (File 17) - Box 4

Lothian Books, 1986-88 (File 18) - Box 4

Macmillan, 1979-85 (File 19) - Box 4

Media, 1985-89 (File 20) - Box 4

Melbourne tram, 1978 (File 21) - Box 4

Methuen Australia, 1984-87 (File 22) - Box 4

Miscellaneous, 1977-90 (File 23) - Box 4

Moliver Collection (File 24) - Box 4

Thomas Nelson, 1978-79 (File 25) - Box 4

Order of Australia, 1985 (File 26) - Box 4

Poetry from friends (File 27) - Box 4

Political correspondence, 1977-89 (File 28) - Box 4

Pool, 1978-88 (File 29) - Box 4

The Print Creators, 1988-89 (File 30) - Box 4

Publications, 1962-76 (File 31) - Box 4

Brian Ridley manuscripts (File 32) - Box 4

Schools, 1985-89 (File 33) - Box 4

Solicitors, 1971-76 (File 34) - Box 4

St Louis American exhibition, 1965-66 (File 35) - Box 4

Travel, 1985-88 (File 36) - Box 4

Wren Publishing, 1977-80 (File 37) - Box 4

Series 5. Diaries, 1970-90

Includes personal diaries of Clifton and Judith Pugh containing brief appointment and address entries. The diaries for 1971-72, 1983 and 1986 are missing. There are also diaries of a painting trip to Lake Callabonna, S. Aust., and Cooper's Creek in 1963, and of a painting trip with Fred Williams to Tibooburra, NSW, in 1967. Also included are three small undated address books. Also in the series are calendars, 1985-90, with Pugh's brief entries for appointments and events.

Diaries, 1970-28 (File [unnumbered]) - Box 5

Diaries, 1984-1990 (File [unnumbered]) - Box 6

Series 6. Personal documents, 1942-86

This small series contains documents relating to Pugh's divorce in 1971, his discharge from the Australian Infantry Batallion in 1947, and his awards, including The Order of Australia, 1985. Also included are repatriation papers and passports, and a notebook containing a handwritten list of his paintings, 1961-62.

Personal documents (File 1) - Box 7

Series 7. Manuscripts

When Pugh travelled or went on sketching trips, he often wrote about the places that he visited. His reports and sketches were sometimes published in newspapers.

There are manuscripts on Windsor Castle where Pugh painted Prince Philip, New Caledonia, Singapore, Darwin and Melville Island, London, Alice Springs and Israel.

Manuscripts (File 1) - Box 7

Series 8. Sketch books and sketches, 1971-89

The series consists of 11 sketchbooks and 12 files of loose sketches. Of particular interest are a 1972 sketchbook which includes sketches for portraits of Gough Whitlam and Don Dunstan, the Brazil sketchbook, a collection of travel sketches, sketches from a trip to Sydney and Perth, and a collection of illustrations for four articles.

Included in this series is a Dunmoochin visitors' book containing many interesting signatures, caricatures and drawings.

Sketchbook, 30x41cm, including Scotland Island (30.9.89), 2 unfinished sketches of Bondi (1.10.89), Leda and the Swan, The Bowl (27.1.90), Comedy Club, Hilton (30.1.90) and Jan Juc Beach, Torquay (File 1) - Folio-Box 1

An early outback sketchbook, 37x27cm, including outhouses and horses (File 2) - Folio-Box 1

Nine pages of drawings of the filming of Kangaroo; three pages of studies of filming for a portrait of Clifton Pugh (25x35cm) (File 3) - Folio-Box 1

Sketchbook (March 1972), 37x27cm, including portraits of Gough Whitlam, Don Dunstan and others (File 4) - Folio-Box 1

Travel sketchbook (May 1979), 21x29cm, including sketches of Milan, Spain, Oxford, Chartres, deer, and a garlic seller (File 5) - Folio-Box 1

Sketchpad 'Dirty Dancing', 30x42cm, including dancing, musicians (File 6) - Folio-Box 1

Sketchbook (1989), 37x31.5cm, including seven pencil sketches for a portrait of Russ Hinze, and sketches made on trips to Sydney and Perth (File 7) - Folio-Box 1

These include 'Dinner with Prue at Bilsons Restaurant'; two drawings of a Sydney Town Hall concert, 29 March 1989, including studies of conductor and players; studies over lunch; portrait study of Bill Hughes; pencil studies of an emu; dinner at Penny's restaurant; three small portrait studies of John Stringer, Rosie Kerr and Alistair Livingstone; self-portrait, 'Clifton at dinner' (6 April 1989)

Brazil sketchbook (1989), 30 x 42.5cm, 23 coloured drawings. Also miscellaneous sketches of London in the back of the sketchbook (File 8) - Folio-Box 1

Folio (1971), 38x38cm, poems by Harry Roskolenko, prints by Pugh and Frank Hodgkinson (File 9) - Folio-Box 1

Sketchbook, 43.5x35cm, studies of rhinoceros, giraffe, deer, emu and camel, possibly from a trip to China (File 10) - Folio-Box 1

Dunmoochin visitors' book, March 1972-84, 25x19cm. Drawings by Barry Humphries, Rolf Harris, John Olsen and Rick Amor; entries from Tom Uren, David Williamson, Harry Roskolenko, Frank Hodgkinson and John and Penny Jost (File 11) - Folio-Box 1

Ten Australian drawings, 27x37cm, including Melville Island, Tiwi Aboriginal grave; Todd River, Alice Springs; Simpsons Gap; Todd River, Alice Springs (File 12) - Folio 2

Travel drawings, 27x34cm, including House of Keys, Isle of Man; sex porno shop; Richmond Bridge, Tasmania; Shere Stables; Bedouin's Bridge and donkey carrying petrol tanks (File 13) - Folio 2

Sketches for portraits of English politicians Edward Heath, Jeremy Thorpe and Harold Wilson, 27x25cm (File 14) - Folio 2

Travel drawings from a visit to China, August 1975, approx. 25x36cm, including Pedal power, Ming tombs, and a double pertrait of Chinese officials (File 15) - Folio 2

Dunmoochin memorabilia, 25 August 1968, including two Dunmoochin menus, 38x28cm (File 16) - Folio 2

Collection of drawings of Melbourne, mainly for the Herald, 30x42cm, including Jimmy Watsons, Trotters, Tramcar Restaurant, and a portrait of David Triaca at the Latin Cafe (File 17) - Folio 2

Miscellaneous drawings including the Nolunda Pub, birds and animals, and the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem (File 18) - Folio 2

Collection of travel sketches, France, Germany, England and Scotland, 21x30cm. (File 19) - Box 7

Including the Australian War Memorial, Villiers Bretoneux; studies of the Pompidou Centre; studies in Germany and Scotland including the old wine presses, barges along the Rhine; lacemaker at Brugge and ancient stone bridge at Somerset

A collection of undated illustrations for four articles. The manuscripts of the articles, possibly by Kevin Childs, are included. It is not known if the illustrated articles were published. (File 20) - Box 7

1. 'An Aussie invasion of the Deep South': five ink drawings, 28x18.5cm, including Texans, ranching, Texan and Aussie, and Mick Slocum and the Sundowners.

2. 'The darker side of the Dallas coin': five felt pen drawings, 26.5x18.5cm, including eating and football.

3. 'N'awlins' (New Orleans): nine ink drawings, 26.5x18.5cm, street buskers, rap dancers and musicians.

4. 'New York': six ink and felt pen drawings, 27x18.5cm, including Ambassador Richard Woolcott, cartoon 'How to get to know your neighbour in New York', and New York skyline

Collection of drawings including portraits, animals and landscapes. (File 21) - Map-Folio [unnumbered]

Drawings include a water colour study of Rolf Harris, inscribed 'The Vicar of Bray', 30.5x41cm (27.1.84); studies of a pelican, 43.5x35cm; portrait studies of Neil Ralpf, Keith Walker, Sigmund Jablonski, and Miriam Karlin (approx. 30.5x41 cm); Windsor Castle, 14x29.5cm, and first working drawings for the Golden Fleece Shearing Dance, 57.5x38cm (1982)

(Stored in Map Drawer 46)

Copies of 19 drawings of nudes, 60x48cm (File 22) - Map-Folio [unnumbered]

(Stored in Map Drawer 46)

Print, 'A slumbering wombat', 62x80cm (1984) (File 23) - Map-Folio [unnumbered]

(Stored in Map Drawer 46)

Series 9. Photographs, including photographs of Paintings

The series includes three albums of photographs of Pugh's paintings, and a large number of loose photographs, both personal and professional. Many of the loose photographs are duplicates of photographs in the albums. Further photographs can be found in Series 10.

The photographs of his paintings are of the bush, its animals and birds, its droughts and tragedies, and of people, the politicians, artists, writers, academics and Labor figures who were his friends. The photographs, mostly colour, are not titled or dated, except in one small album, 12.5 x 9cm, dated December 1976. This has photographs of the Pughs (Clifton and Judith), the Dattners and the Marginsons, including a painting of Betty Marginson, mayor of Hawthorn. (Box 9)

There are very few family photographs among the loose photographs. They are mainly of friends and public figures he painted, including Prince Philip, Sir John Kerr, Prue Acton and David Williamson, and photographs from his sketching trips and of Dunmoochin.

The loose photographs, in four boxes, are unsorted.

Folio volume: Album of photographs of paintings, 1950-1980s (File 1) - Box 8

Folio volume: Scrapbook of photographs of paintings, 1953-78 (File 2) - Folio-Box 3

Folio volume: Scrapbook of photographs of paintings, 1959-65 (File 3) - Folio-Box 3

Loose photographs (File [unnumbered]) - Box 9, Box 10, Box 11, Box 12, Box 18

Series 10. Scrapbooks of cuttings, catalogues and photographs, 1953-90

The series comprises 22 scrapbooks, with cuttings and other material about Pugh and his work. Loose cuttings can be found in Series 12.

1953-68 (Item 1) - Folio-Box 4

1958-76 (Item 2) - Folio-Box 4

1969-71 (Item 3) - Folio-Box 4

1972 (Item 4) - Folio-Box 4

1973 (Item 5) - Folio-Box 5

1974 (Item 6) - Folio-Box 5

1975 (Item 7) - Folio-Box 5

1976 (Item 8) - Folio-Box 5

1977 (Item 9) - Folio-Box 5

1978 (Item 10) - Folio-Box 6

1979 (Item 11) - Folio-Box 6

1980 (Item 12) - Folio-Box 6

1981 (Item 13) - Folio-Box 6

1982 (Item 14) - Folio-Box 6

1983 (Item 15) - Folio-Box 6

1984 (Item 16) - Folio-Box 6

1985 (Item 17) - Folio-Box 7

1986 (Item 18) - Folio-Box 7

1987 (Item 19) - Folio-Box 7

1988 (Item 20) - Folio-Box 7

1989 (Item 21) - Folio-Box 7

1990 (Item 22) - Folio-Box 7

Series 11. Exhibition catalogues, 1947-89

A large collection of loose exhibition catalogues. Pugh had a substantial creative output, with 62 one-man and major group exhibitions in the period 1955-86. The earliest catalogue in the series is for the 1947 annual exhibition of the Shire of Ferntree Gully Arts Society. Pugh exhibited one painting of Wewak Cove, New Guinea, with a list price of 5 guineas. Amongst the earliest catalogues are exhibitions for 'Four new Melbourne artists' (August 1955) and 'Clifton Pugh', his first one-man exhibition in Brisbane (May 1956). One of the latest catalogues is for Pugh's exhibition 'Drought and flood in Australia' (1986). There is an invitation to a 1989 exhibition 'Animals in the landscape', but no catalogue.

Exhibition catalogues (File 1_10) - Box 13, Box 14

Series 12. Newspaper cuttings, 1955-1991

The loose cuttings relate to Pugh and his work, beginning with reviews of one of his earliest exhibitions in 1955 and ending with newspaper coverage of his death in 1990. Cuttings include a 1973 article on Pugh's disenchantment with the Whitlam Government's arts policy, press coverage of his stobie pole painting 'Adam & Eve' (1984), travel reports and sketches of Paris, Neumagen and Bruges (1986), and reports and sketches on his walkabout in the outbook with British novelist Naomi Mitchison (1978). Also in the cuttings is a 1991 newspaper report on the details of Pugh's will.

Newspaper cuttings (File 1_2) - Box 15

Series 13. Miscellaneous

Posters, pressed bush leaves and flowers, and a cash payment book for ASPIC catering (1977) are included here. Several posters use paintings by Pugh, and there is a poster of 22 people, prominent in the Arts, advertising 'Summer Exhibition 1981'. Signatures on the back of the poster include Brett Whiteley, Noel Counihan, George Johnson, Frank Hodgkinson and Pugh.

Miscellaneous (File [unnumbered]) - Box 16

Series 14. Other manuscripts, 1962-85

This series contains manuscripts and transcripts by other people including Judith Pugh, Frank Dalby Davison, Tim Burstall and Ivan Smith.

The manuscripts of four articles, possibly by Kevin Childs, 'An Aussie invasion of the Deep South', 'The darker side of the Dallas coin', 'N'Awlins' (New Orleans), and 'New York', which were illustrated by Pugh, are held at Series 8/20.

Typescript of The white thorntree by Frank Dalby Davison, (1975) (File 1) - Box 17

Curtis Levy typescript of Dingo King, (1977) (File 2) - Box 17

Tim Burstall's shooting script, 'Man in iron', (1962) (File 3) - Box 15

Typescript of Wombalong by Judith Pugh, (1985) (File 4) - Box 17

ABC television script 'Spectrum Clifton Pugh on commitment', (1966) (File 5) - Box 17

Typescript of A sliver of time by Ivan Smith, (1977) (File 6) - Box 17