Mr Fitzgerald painted two Australian prime ministers including Malcolm Fraser. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)
Internationally renowned portrait artist Paul Fitzgerald — believed to have painted more famous people than any other Australian — has died in Melbourne at the weekend, aged 94.
Born in Hawthorn in 1922, Fitzgerald briefly followed in the footsteps of his father, respected newspaper journalist Frank Fitzgerald, but found his real passion was art.
He studied under some of the greats of Australian art at the National Gallery School in Victoria during World War II, but his Army service truncated his studies and probably cost him the chance to become an official war artist.
At war’s end he took a boat to England where his international career in portrait painting quickly flourished.
A portrait of Prince Charles that Paul Fitzgerald painted in 1978. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)
Such was Fitzgerald’s amazing ability to quickly achieve a remarkable likeness of his sitter, it was said that he could almost “paint your portrait over the telephone”.
“He had the unique ability to capture not only the likeness but also the character and personality of his subjects, which is why he was often asked back to paint additional members of the family,” Fitzgerald’s son Fabian said.
His portraits included world-famous figures, such as Pope John XXIII.
Painted in 1963, Fitzgerald only had one sitting with the ailing Pontiff who died days later, meaning the work had to be completed posthumously.
Mr Fitzgerald painted movie stars including actress Vivien Leigh who was in Gone with the Wind. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)
After a brief stint in Hollywood in the mid-1950s, painting the stars of the day including Glenn Ford and Vivien Leigh, Fitzgerald came back to Australia to marry Melbourne actress Mary Parker, who he had met and proposed to in London.
Parker, who was the first woman on Australian television, was a celebrity in her own right and their marriage was prominent in the celebrity pages of the day.
The couple celebrated 60 years of marriage earlier this year.
Fitzgerald’s portraits encompass a who’s who of prominent international and Australian men and women.
Mr Fitzgerald painted the Queen, Prime Ministers, sporting figures and movie stars. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)
He painted Queen Elizabeth on three occasions, Prince Philip twice, Prince Charles and a host of royalty.
Mr Fitzgerald also painted sporting champions including Alan Border. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)
In Australia, he was a multiple finalist in the Archibald Prize and completed portraits of sporting greats such as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser and Allan Border.
The business world was represented by paintings of the Packer family, Conrad Hilton (of hotel fame) and countless others.
In the realm of politics he painted Sir Robert Menzies, Sir Henry Bolte and late former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
“He was uniquely privileged to spend intimate time in conversation with a broader range of high achievers and elite performers, than perhaps anyone before him or since,” Fabian Fitzgerald said.
In 1997, Fitzgerald’s work and career was recognised with an Order of Australia.
He is represented in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Buckingham Palace and countless stately homes and institutions around the globe.
A staunch supporter of traditional realist art, with artist Kenneth Jack, he helped establish the Australian Guild of Realist Artists.
Mr Fitzgerald died in a nursing home in Kew on Saturday, surrounded by four generations of his large and extended family.
His funeral will be held this Friday in the Melbourne suburb of Kew.
A portrait of Australian tennis legend Neale Fraser painted by Mr Fitzgerald. (Supplied: Fitzgerald family)