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Tribute to June Mendoza AO OBE

It is with profound sadness that we remember the extraordinary life and legacy of June Mendoza AO OBE. June was not only a world-renowned artist but also a cherished friend and a passionate supporter of the Tait Memorial Trust.

June Mendoza AO OBE RP ROI HonSWA was a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and is celebrated as one of the world’s foremost portrait painters. Her remarkable career, spanning several decades, has left an indelible mark on the art world. Born in Melbourne, Australia, June was immersed in an artistic environment from an early age. Her mother, Dot Mendoza, was a pianist and composer, and her father, John Morton, a musician. This artistic lineage undoubtedly influenced June’s decision to pursue a career in art from the tender age of twelve.

Dot Mendoza, June’s mother, had a fascinating career of her own. She played for Pavlova and Borovansky, and for many years, she was the JCW’s company pianist. In the 1960s, she was associated with The Mavis Bramston Show in Australia as a scriptwriter, composer, and performer. Later in life, Dot coached actors in performance and voice production, teaching notable figures such as Barry Humphries, June Salter, Gordon Chater, John Meillon, and Jill Perryman. This rich family background in the arts deeply influenced June’s path and passion for creativity.

By fourteen, June was already honing her skills in life drawing, and by seventeen, she was illustrating book jackets, magazine illustrations, town-planning exhibition artwork, record sleeves, portraits, and even the adventure comic strip Devil Doone. June’s talent and dedication were evident early on, setting the stage for a remarkable career.

In the early 1950s, June immigrated to England, where she initially worked for Hulton Press, producing illustrations and comics for the Eagle’s companion title, Girl. However, her true calling was portraiture, and after five years, she transitioned to full-time portrait painting. Her subjects included a diverse array of prominent figures such as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Sammy Davis Jr., Sean Connery, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II (whom she painted five times), HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Sir William McMahon, Prince Edward, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Sir John Major, and Sir John Gorton (1972), for whom she painted the first and only official portrait of an Australian Prime Minister by a woman artist.

My connection with June began over 20 years ago at a joint Tait Memorial Trust and Australian Music Foundation celebration for Dame Joan Sutherland at Australia House. AMF Chairman, Peter Andry, encouraged me to bid for a head-and-shoulders portrait by June, so I did, and I met her at her studio. We started talking, and as my mother was always speaking fondly of Dot Mendoza, we bonded instantly. Dot was an icon at JCW’s and was always there for the artists. Though smaller in stature than June, she had magnificent hands to cope with all the playing she had to do for JCW’s. This serendipitous encounter marked the beginning of a meaningful friendship and collaboration. June was enthusiastic about our work and readily accepted my invitation to become a Patron. Her support was vital to our success as a charity.

Her influence on my life and the Tait Memorial Trust cannot be overstated. June’s unwavering support as a Patron was crucial to our mission. Her commitment to nurturing young talent and her generous spirit have left a lasting impact on all who knew her.

June Mendoza’s artistry was matched only by her kindness and dedication to the arts. Her portraits captured not just the likeness but the essence of her subjects, a testament to her extraordinary skill and empathy. She leaves behind a legacy of exceptional art and a wealth of memories for those fortunate enough to have known her.

As we remember June, we are reminded of the beauty she brought into the world through her art and her unwavering support of the Tait Memorial Trust. Her death is a great loss, but her legacy will continue to inspire and uplift us.

With love and deepest gratitude,

Isla


The Tait Memorial Trust

The Tait Memorial Trust was formed in 1992 by Isla Baring OAM in memory of Sir Frank and Viola, Lady Tait and the Tait brothers who played such an important part in the establishment of theatre and the performing arts in Australia & New Zealand. The Trust offers awards/grants for postgraduate study, performance opportunities to young musicians and performing artists from Australia and New Zealand, and general help in the furtherance of their careers while resident in the UK.

Registered U.K Charity: 1042797
info@taitmemorialtrust.org

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