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Features: Paul Newton Creating an Enduring Legacy

By Luana Luconi Winner

Internationally recognized portrait artist Paul Newton of Sydney, Australia is a highly sought-after portrait painter. He is charming, insanely talented, and one of the most genuinely nice fellows one will ever meet. Among our colleagues in the world of portraiture, this gentleman will be remembered for hundreds of paintings in Australia, Asia, the United States, and Europe.

A native “Aussie,” Paul graduated in 1979 from Marist Brother’s High School in Eastwood and went straight on to the University of Sydney to complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1982. Five years later, changing from science to art, he received an Art Degree with Distinction at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney.

The early years
Like many other artists, he struggled to establish himself in the early years. Despite having two degrees, he was unable to find employment but eventually found a position doing illustrations for an advertising firm. After discovering that he loved figurative painting and working with people, he pursued the fine art of portraiture. It was then that he became familiar with Winston Churchill’s quote, “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Newton said, “I enjoy working with people. Being an artist can be a very solitary occupation. You spend a lot of time in your own company. And you can get very sick of that. So it was an example of how I could work as a painter, in the field that I was good at—or hoped that I was good at at the beginning—and still commune with people.”

Building Skills
Newton cares deeply about the process of making great art. His work is created slowly, beginning with dozens of sketches, considering various poses with lighting and design being the driving force. Repeatedly searching for the most telling pose and expression, he continues through the sketching stage until the final design appears ready. His compositions are guided by the “golden mean” and thus share their classic wholeness of design with the greatest art of past ages.

Detail of hands from Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

His early training with Dick Ashton encouraged him to continuously search for the perfect body motion, whether an aristocratic stance or a comforting and gentle caress of the mother’s hand. Newton also takes the utmost care to employ the perfect lighting to add strength and drama to the image or to whisper the candlelight into the quiet shadows. But most of all, those skilled hands and eyes capture the luminosity of human skin.

Awards Worldwide
His inclusion in major exhibitions and awards began as early as 1991. In 1996, Newton was accepted into the Archibald Prize Exhibition and won the Packer’s Prize. A twelve-time finalist for the Archibald, he has also won the Packer’s Prize and The People’s Choice Awards in Sydney and Melbourne on multiple occasions.

In the United States, he was a finalist in New York at the American Society of Portrait Artists in 2001. In 2002, he won First Place at the Portrait Society of America’s international competition in Philadelphia, and followed this in 2003 with their First Place Award at the meeting in Washington, DC. Additional awards have continued over the years, including recognition in 2018 as one among only several Signature Members of the Portrait Society of America.

International Personalities
Newton has multiple works in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery and is an official portrait artist for Parliament House, Canberra.

His subjects in Australia include the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke; former Australian Governor General Sir William Deane; President of the Senate the Hon. Paul Calvert; Rugby legend David Campese; radio personality Alan Jones; dignitaries, entertainment celebrities, chairmen, and academics.

Above left: Alan Jones by Paul Newton (oil, 40″ x 57″). A 2006 Portrait of the Australian radio personality. Above right: Dean Bill Russel by Paul Newton, 2015 (41″ x 62″). Graduate School, Princeton University. Below left: Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians by Paul Newton, 2008 (oil, 48″ x 62″). Painted for World Youth Day 2008, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia. Below right: Early Catholic Community of Sydney, circa 1818 by Paul Newton, 2011 (61″ x 71″). Located in the Domus Australia Chapel, Rome, Italy.

Portrait clients from the United States include presidents, chancellors, and deans of Notre Dame University, Wellesley College, Columbia University, Princeton, John Hopkins University, Indiana State University, and others. His portraits also can be found in Singapore, London, and Rome. He is currently working to complete four portraits for installation in September 2018.

Where paintings lead
With all his accomplishments, he perhaps will best be remembered for his most ambitious project recently completed in Rome, Italy. Paul was commissioned by the Bishop of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney to create Our Lady of the Southern Cross for World Youth Day 2008. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was present with Paul to bless the painting for the installation.

Paul Newton, his family and parents with Pope Benedict after the installation Mass.

A new location for Australian pilgrims who wish to visit and stay in Rome, Domus Australia was a pet project of His Eminence George Cardinal Pell in Sydney. In 2010, Paul was commissioned to create, among other things, a painting depicting Australia’s first Catholics in the 1800’s worshipping around a table at a makeshift altar. A full-length Our Lady of the Southern Cross was created for the chapel as well.
Thirty-two paintings in all were requested. After the first grouping was complete, shipped, and hung, Paul traveled to Rome for the official opening when His Holiness Pope Benedict celebrated Mass under Paul’s paintings. Among the 32 images are portraits of St. Mary of the Cross, MacKillop, Australia’s first canonized saint, Archbishop Polding, Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, Saint Mother Teresa, and Saint John Paul II.

For more on Paul Newton: http://www.paulnewton.com.au

Footnote: Luana, a portrait artist in her own right, has had the distinct pleasure of knowing Paul Newton for many years. And it was with great emotion and pride that she was able to share the Domus Australia Chapel with American and Italian friends last year when in Rome for a school reunion. As of this writing, Paul has not yet had the opportunity to visit the completed Chapel, but his work there will surely become his legacy.