Melissa Beowulf

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Melissa Beowulf
Born1957 (age 61–62)
Known forPortraiture
Spouse(s)Thorhammer Beowulf (married c. 1985, widowed 2015)

Melissa Beowulf (born 1957) is an Australian artist, specialising in portraiture. She grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to Canberra in the late 1980s,[1] later working between both Woollahra and Canberra.


Beowulf undertook a masters in Art Practice in Sydney.[2]

Art awards[edit]

In 2000, Beowulf was a finalist in the Archibald Prize with a portrait of painter Ken Done.[3]

In 2001, she was selected for the Archibald Prize's Salon des Refusés for her portrait of the National Gallery's Brian Kennedy.[4][5][6]

In 2002, she was a finalist in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for her portrait of Nancy Wake, later acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.[7] Beowulf chose Wake as a subject to help ensure she got more recognition for her service within Australia.[8]

In 2010, she was a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Award with a portrait of comedian Adam Spencer.[9][10] She was also highly commended for that award in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003. Her 1998 entry was a portrait of Pru Goward.[11] Her 2003 entry was a self-portrait.[12][13]

Public collections[edit]

In 2006, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia acquired Beowulf's portrait of war veteran Nancy Wake (2001), with funds provided by Leonard Gordon Darling AM CMG.[14][15] The Gallery also has her portrait of Donald Horne (2000), received through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program 2015.[16]


Group exhibitions[edit]

  • M16 Artists' Exhibition, Canberra, 21 August - 7 September 2014[17]
  • Mystic Visions, Beowulf Galleries Woollahra, June - 29 July 2007[18]
  • Unhung heroes, Paintbox Fine Art, May 2005[19]
  • The Unhung Heroes, Made for Australia Galleries, Deakin, Canberra, July 2002[20]
  • Tenants Show, Leichhardt Street Studios, Kingston, Canberra, September 2001[21]

Personal life[edit]

Beowulf and her husband, Thorhammer (Thor) Beowulf had five sons; Thorsten Halley, Bjorn Toren, Thorin, and Beren. Thor passed away from pancreatic cancer on 7 August 2015.[22]

On 12 October that same year, Beowulf's mother-in-law, 81-year-old Katherine Helene Panin, was found dead at the base of some stairs at their shared home in Red Hill.[23] In August 2017, Beowulf and her son Bjorn, faced the ACT Magistrates Court, formally charged with the October 2015 murder of Panin.[24][25] Both plead not guilty and were remanded in custody. One of Beowulf's other sons, Thorsten, later appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court, and similarly plead not guilty, and was remanded in custody.[26] Their assets may have been frozen, which could have impeded their bail applications.[27]

In September 2017, the National Portrait Gallery stated that Beowulf's portrait of Nancy Wake would not be removed from display, and that nothing would be done while the matter was before the courts.[28]

In early December 2017, the prosecution requested more time for the case, in order to gather financial documents. Beowulf's lawyer, Rachel Bird, noted in her objection that the 15-month investigation had already included a search of the family home for the same information.[29] The trio reappeared at the family violence court on 19 December 2017, and Magistrate Bernadette Boss committed them to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court on 1 February 2018.[30] For that day, Bjorn, Melissa and Thorsten's cases were included in the court's list.[31]

On 31 October 2018, Beowulf and her sons Bjorn and Thorsten were released on bail in the ACT Supreme Court.[32] Their trial began in the ACT Supreme Court on 19 February 2019.[33] A jury returned the verdict of not guilty for the trio on 12 April 2019.[34]


  1. ^ "Melissa Beowulf, National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  2. ^ Parsons, Susan (2014-06-09). "A walk on the Wyld side". Good Food. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  3. ^ "Archibald Prize finalists 2000 :: Art Gallery NSW". Archived from the original on 2012-04-30. Retrieved 2017-08-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Canberra artists eye the Prize". Canberra Times. 21 March 2004. p. 24.
  5. ^ Holder, Peter; Casamento, Jo (14 March 2001). "Sydney Confidential". Daily Telegraph. p. 32.
  6. ^ Sexton, Jennifer (14 March 2001). "A rejection too good to refuse". Australian. p. 7.
  7. ^ "Moran Prizes - 2002". Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2017-08-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  8. ^ "Artist shares a portrait of laughter and dress-ups". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2011-08-08. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  9. ^ Streak, Diana (23 September 2010). "Portia Geach awards". p. 9.
  10. ^ "They said...". Sun Herald. 19 September 2010. p. 30.
  11. ^ Mapstone, Naomi (5 March 1998). "Pru Takes It On The Chin For The Perfect Picture". Canberra Times. p. 5.
  12. ^ "Paper and tigers -". Archived from the original on 2005-12-08. Retrieved 2017-08-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Reid, Michael (15 October 2003). "Wendy Sharpe takes out the Portia Geach prize". The Australian. p. B14.
  14. ^ Communications, c=AU;o=Australian Government;ou=Department of. "Outcome 1 - Output 1.2". Archived from the original on 2013-12-05. Retrieved 2017-08-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  15. ^ "Nancy Wake - The White Mouse, 2001". National Portrait Gallery collection. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  16. ^ "Donald Horne, 2000". National Portrait Gallery collection. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  17. ^ Beowulf, Thor. "2014 Sculpture Prizes & Exhibitions". Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Island inspiration That flamboyant Canberra philhellene artist Michael Winters,...". Canberra Times. 23 June 2007.
  19. ^ "'Unhung' portraits given fresh airing". Canberra Times. 28 May 2005. p. 20.
  20. ^ "They did not make it, but now they are hung". Canberra Times. 2 July 2002. p. 11.
  21. ^ Barron, Sonia (21 September 2001). "Leichhart artists stage a swansong". Canberra Times. p. 14.
  22. ^ Higgins, Neville. "Canberra Bonsai Society - VALE Thorhammer Beowulf - Environmental Artist". Archived from the original on 29 February 2016. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  23. ^ Back, Alexandra (2019-02-20). "'I think they want to kill me': Alleged murder victim spoke of fear". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  24. ^ Gorrey, Megan (2017-08-25). "Three charged with murder of 81-year-old Red Hill grandmother". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  25. ^ "Mother and son charged with murder of elderly woman in 2015". ABC News. 2017-08-25. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  26. ^ Connery, Georgina (2017-08-26). "Man pleads not guilty to murdering elderly Red Hill grandma". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  27. ^ "Melissa Beowulf, sons charged with murder: friends break silence". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  28. ^ "Painting by murder-accused will not be removed from National Portrait Gallery". ABC News. 2017-09-11. Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  29. ^ "Magistrate confused by prosecution's request in murder trial of Archibald Prize finalist". ABC News. 2017-12-05. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  30. ^ Gorrey, Megan (2017-12-19). "Artist Melissa Beowulf and two sons to face trial accused of killing grandmother in Red Hill". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  31. ^ Administration, ACT Law Courts and Tribunal Administration;; PositionTitle=Director; SectionName=ACT Supreme Court; Corporate=ACT Law Courts and Tribunal (2018-01-31). "THURSDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2018". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  32. ^ Back, Alexandra (31 October 2018). "Mother and sons accused of murdering family matriarch freed on bail". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  33. ^ Hayne, Jordan; Byrne, Elizabeth (2019-02-19). "Archibald Prize finalist, sons on trial for alleged murder of 81-year-old Katherine Panin". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  34. ^ Hayne, Jordan; Byrne, Elizabeth (13 April 2019). "How Archibald Prize finalist Melissa Beowulf and her sons were charged with murder — and why they were acquitted". ABC news.

External links[edit]