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Three Well Known Australians

Martin Shaw has lost count of the number of times he has been asked to reveal the identities of the three figures in his painting. Each time he has politely refused.

Titled Three Well Known Australians the work depicts three stick figure characters against a yellow background.

The point of the image is the public response, viewers being invited to guess the identities and record their conclusions in a yearbook as the exhibition travels across the nation, capturing the spirit of Australia. There are three components to the exhibition: the painting, the letters and the yearbooks. It is an opportunity for some mental gymnastics, pondering who these people are and reading other people’s thoughts.

After continuously touring the country for 36 years, the answer remains a mystery. Over the years guesses have ranged from historic to popular culture figures of the day. There are the famous and the infamous, the historical and contemporary, serious and amusing. Some people have recorded their political and social concerns.


Take a look at the painting and add your suggestions to this fascinating and continuing exhibition by emailing your answers to us.

Martin says “If the public understands the symbolism of the painting touring cities and towns for many generations, they will probably understand it as a symbol of Australia’s continuous political, social and economic stability and continual peace. Whether one has a thousand years of Aboriginal heritage, first fleet ancestry, or is a newly arrived migrant, the opinions recorded are like brushstrokes of a portrait and the portrait is Australia”.