David Wenham captured in contemplation

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David Wenham Archibold portrait
Winner Packing Room Prize 2019 Tessa Mackay ‘Through the looking glass’ © the artist. PHOTO: AGNSW, Mim Stirling

Australian actor David Wenham, whose portrait won this year’s Archibald Packing Room Prize, is also a well-known Sydney Catholic.

The Lord of the Rings actor has spoken of his happy upbringing in a devout Catholic family at St Brigid’s Parish, Marrickville, including fond memories of his father Bill, who was a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society in the SBS series aired last year Who Do You Think You Are?

In 1999 he played Father Damien in Molokai which was based on the true story of the priest who devoted himself to leprosy suffers on that remote Hawaiian Island, and eventually died of the disease himself.

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In a 2017 interview with Warcry Magazine he said that growing up the youngest in a Catholic family of seven children influenced his internationally successful career.

“Growing up Catholic with the rituals within the Church possibly nourished a theatrical interest in me,” he said.

“Being the last child with a Catholic upbringing isn’t something unusual in this business.”

The portrait of David Wenham daydreaming while gazing out the window of a Newtown cafe won the $1500 prize which is judged by the Art Gallery of NSW staff who unpack and hang the Archibald entries.

For 27-year-old Perth artist Tessa MacKay it was her first time as an Archibald finalist.

“Aware of my fondness for sitting, people watching and general daydreaming, Tess had a very clear vision of what the look, feel and purpose of the portrait should be,” said David.