“Magnificent” portrait of Rod Matheson unveiled

A superb portrait of the Hon. Rod Matheson AM KC – one of the longest-serving Chairmen of the College Council in the history of St Mark’s – was unveiled in the College dining hall last week.

The portrait is by the eminent Australian artist Robert Hannaford AM, well known for his portraits of such figures as Sir Donald Bradman, Dame Joan Sutherland, Bob Hawke, and Paul Keating.

Rod Matheson was a student at St Mark’s from 1948 to 1951, while studying Arts and Law at the University of Adelaide. He joined the College Council in 1980, and served as Chairman from 1982 to 2000. For most of those years he also served as a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.

Rod Matheson’s 18 years of distinguished service as Chairman of the College Council made him one of the three longest-serving Chairmen in the history of the College, along with Sir Henry Newland (Chairman 1926-53) and Dr Gavin Walkley CBE (1961-82). Portraits of Sir Henry Newland and Gavin Walkley have hung in the College dining hall for many years.

As Chairman of the College Council, Rod Matheson presided over the admission of women students to St Mark’s, which he had strongly advocated, and encouraged three Masters of the College – the Rev’d Peter Thomson, Robin Ashwin, and Dr John Bannon AO – to put their names forward for the Mastership. His time as Chairman also saw – amongst much else – major building and renovation work in the College, strengthening of the College’s enrolments and finances, and formation of a system of College governance committees.

On his retirement as Chairman in 2000, Rod Matheson was described as “an excellent chairman, a strong communicator, always fully informed about all matters of the College”, and as a generous benefactor of the College. Appointed an Honorary Fellow of the College in 2000, he has remained an active supporter of the College over the years since.

In welcoming guests to the unveiling of the portrait, the Head of College, Professor Don Markwell AM, spoke warmly of Rod Matheson’s life, student days at St Mark’s, career in the law, and outstanding service to the College, as well as his “energy and enthusiasm” and “self-effacing modesty”.

He referred to the College’s debt both to Rod Matheson and to Mrs Léonie Matheson, and congratulated them on their 64th wedding anniversary just days before. It was a “delight” also to welcome their four children and their partners “amongst such a glittering array of distinguished guests” (which included, amongst many others, former Chief Justice of South Australia, the Hon. John Doyle AC KC, and former NSW Supreme Court judge, the Hon. John Basten KC, who had been Rod Matheson’s articled clerk).

Before unveiling the portrait, the Chair of the College Board, Ms Linda Matthews, spoke of the Board’s decision to commission it “to pay tribute to the wonderful service Rod has given to the College”.

Speaking after the portrait was unveiled to enthusiastic applause, both Robert Hannaford and Rod Matheson spoke of their friendship going back a number of decades, including when Rod – as Chairman of the St Mark’s College Council – had commissioned Robert to paint three of the six Robert Hannaford portraits at St Mark’s (those of Dr Gavin Walkley, Professor Don Nicholas, and Dr John Bannon).

The portrait was painted over nine sittings, each of two to three hours’ duration. In the portrait, Rod Matheson is painted in the judge’s bench wig and scarlet gown that used to be worn in the criminal division of the Supreme Court. An interesting feature of the portrait is that he is also shown wearing his smart watch.

Robert Hannaford said that the “painting process” for Rod Matheson’s portrait was a “wonderful” and “enjoyable experience” in which the subject was “usually right” as a “critic” of the portrait as it was being painted.

The resulting portrait has been widely acclaimed with many superlatives, amongst which “magnificent” is perhaps the most frequent. The portrait hangs in the College dining hall on the wall behind the High Table, next to the portrait of Sir Henry Newland.

For Professor Markwell’s speech of welcome recounting Rod Matheson’s life, career, and service to St Mark’s and other organisations, click here.

The lead photograph shows the Hon. Rod Matheson AM KC speaking after the unveiling of his portrait (photo credit: Dr Angela Evans AM)

Professional photograph of Robert Hannaford AM’s portrait of Rod Matheson (photo credit: Joseph Häxan).

Board Chair Ms Linda Matthews with Rod Matheson immediately after the unveiling of the portrait (photo credit: Amelie Beltakis).

Robert Hannaford AM speaking after the unveiling (photo credit: Amelie Beltakis).

Rod and Léonie Matheson and their family after the unveiling (photo credit: Amelie Beltakis).