Historical information

The portrait of Chief Justice Sir Edmund Herring is significant because of whom it portrays and who painted it.

Sir Edmund Herring (1892-1982), had a military career before becoming the Chief Justice of Victoria in 1944. Sir Edmund served as an artillery officer with the British Army in World War One and was awarded the Military Cross. While he returned to the Law between the wars, becoming Kings Counsel in 1936, he continued his military associations through the Australian Militia forces rising to colonel by the start of the Second World War. At the outset of World War Two Herring was appointed as Commander of the Royal Artillery for the Australian Sixth Division. Herring saw service in North Africa and Greece and was in charge of Australian Northern forces in 1942, afterwards working with General Blamey in Papua New Guinea. It was at this time that Herring confirmed the death sentences of 22 Papuans who had been found guilty of murder and treason.

Sir Edmund was appointed Chief Justice, straight from his army command in 1944. As Chief Justice he quickly established the Law Reform Committee and after the war oversaw the extension of the Supreme Court buildings, with the creation of new Courts. He was considered an able administrator, but his refusal to appoint Joan Rosanove a Queen’s Counsel throughout the 1950s, did not sit well with many legal practitioners.

After his retirement from the Bench, he continued in his many public activities, including trustee of the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial and a member of the Melbourne Grammar School Council, as well as Lieutenant Governor of the State of Victoria a position he held from 1945 to 1972.

Herring was also an outspoken social critic, between the wars he had been a member of the White Guard, who were a far right group acting against communism. During the Cold War period of the 1950s, Herring spoke out in favour of the British Empire and the American alliance.


The portrait of Chief Justice Sir Edmund Herring is significant because of whom it portrays and who painted it.

The portrait of Sir Edmund Herring is the second one that Sir William Dargie (1912-2003), completed of Sir Edmund, his first effort in 1944/45 won the Archibald prize. Dargie won the Archibald prize a record eight times.

Physical description

Portrait in oils of Sir Edmund Herring, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria (1944-1964). Sir Edmund is seated, this is a half portrait, dressed in his red judicial robes. The sitter takes up most of the frame and there is very little extra information in the picture.

Inscriptions & markings

signed lower left "Dargie'. Plaque with the following details : Sir Edmund Francis Herring, KCMG, KBE, DSO, MC, ED. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 1944-1964.