Lost portrait recovered

Portrait of Norman Haire

Portrait of Norman Haire

A portrait of the renowned doctor and sex researcher Norman Haire has been returned to the University after being “borrowed” for 50 years. News of the portrait came to light after historian and alumna Diana Wyndham received a Norman Haire Fellowship and wrote his biography, Norman Haire and the Study of Sex, which Sydney University Press published last year.

Wyndham says she received an email from a man who worked at the University in the 1960s. He told her that at the time the University library was housed in MacLaurin Hall, and in the transition to the new Fisher Library, many documents were stolen, including the portrait, which was taken by one of his colleagues.

The culprit went overseas for what was expected to be a brief period and asked Wyndham’s informant to mind the portrait. The man who “borrowed” the portrait never returned and died overseas. Wyndham’s book gave the portrait-minder the perfect opportunity for the portrait’s return: author and minder met and Wyndham arranged for the handover.

David Ellis, Director of Sydney University Museums, says the painting’s greatest value to the University is its connection to a significant researcher who graduated from Sydney, and generously left a large bequest and his papers to the University. After graduating, Haire went to London in the 1920s, setting up a medical practice in Harley Street, where he promoted contraception, ran free birth control clinics for the poor and pioneered sexual reforms. Haire spoke charismatically and wrote lucidly in his bid to save the world from sexual misery.

The portrait - which was painted in 1938 by the society portraitist Cathleen Mann, the Marchioness of Queensberry - is set to go on display in Fisher Library this month.