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Artist Salvador Flores Loreto donates last portrait of Don Dunstan to Adelaide Festival Centre

Monday, 24 July 2023
5 min read
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Salvador Flores Loreto has donated a portrait of the former Premier of South Australia Don Dunstan AC, QC,  to Adelaide Festival Centre to mark its 50th anniversary.

"I met him a couple of times," Loreto says. "One day I received a call from him [Dunstan] which was very strange for me. I was a little bit nervous and confused… what did he want me for?

"But he explained…he said I’ve followed your career and I’ve seen many paintings and exhibitions and he showed me a painting he had bought from one of my exhibitions. He said, this is the most Australiana painting I have ever seen." 

I choose you out of everyone to paint my last portrait.

Expand Current CEO and Artist Director of Adelaide Festival Centre Douglas Gautier with artist Salvador Flores Loreto

Current CEO and Artist Director of Adelaide Festival Centre Douglas Gautier with artist Salvador Flores Loreto

Image: Photograph by Cassandra Ackerman

When asked about the painting, Salvador Loreto says "there are 2 important things in this painting – his face and the ring.”

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Close up of ring in DON, 1988 by Salvador Flores Loreto.

Image: Photograph by Cassandra Ackermann

I promised him [Dunstan] that I would find the right place to hang it in his honour.

— Salvador Flores Loreto

Salvador Flores Loreto was raised as a “pure gypsy” in a gitano (gypsy) family, leaving school at the age of nine to pursue flamenco music and bullfighting. After a bullfighting accident aged 15, he returned to his early passion for painting attending various art schools in Algeciras, Bilbao, and Madrid to hone his craft. In 1966, Loreto began his life in Australia. This move inspired a new energy in his artistic expression with the discovery of new freedoms, rich landscapes, and Australia’s characteristic stark contrast of light and shade – all of which he poured into his paintings.  

The height of his career was painting two largescale portraits of the Honourable Don Dunstan AC QC (b. 1926 – d. 1999) former Premier of South Australia in 1998. Painted from life over multiple sittings, this is the final known portrait of the late Premier painted only a year before his untimely passing in 1999.  

Called simply “DON”, this portrait honours a man who contributed so much to the arts in South Australia. It was Don Dunstan’s vision and advocacy that raised the funds needed to build the Adelaide Festival Centre. His fundraising efforts exceeded their target in a week and the additional funds began the world-class Works of Art Collection – that this painting now becomes part of.   

I regard the finished portrait as quite the best which has ever been painted of me by any artist, and an important work.

— Hon. Don Dunstan AC, QC 

The portrait is currently on display in Dunstan Playhouse Foyer.

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