Write biography prose

Each person and group record on Design & Art Australia Online includes a biography. Ideally, this text should provide a brief overview of a subject’s role, training, career and – where appropriate – facts about family and personal life.

How long should a biography be?

No more than 1000 words. You may notice that some legacy records – particularly peer reviewed records – are longer, but we encourage you to keep your prose text succinct. You will also see invitations to add to very short biographies or stubs.

When writing about historical artists or public figures, we suggest following these simple steps:

1. Start with an overview of the subject’s role, family connections and heritage.

Outline the subject’s creative role/s, date of birth (year only for living artists), their heritage and relevant family connections.

2. Move on to the subject’s early life and training.

Write a few sentences about the subject’s youth, training (artistic or otherwise), early introductions to their craft and the like.

3. Give some details about the subject’s personal life, occupations and associates.

Write a paragraph about the subject’s personal life where appropriate. For example, did the subject travel, join any artistic associations, or have children? Who was the subject associated with?

4. Briefly characterise the subject’s work with examples.

This can be tricky. Do not write about what the artists ‘feels’ or sweeping statements about their work. The idea is to give the reader good idea of the subject’s oeuvre without mirroring an artist’s statement or an art review.

5. Tell us about the subject’s career – awards or grants they have won and where they have exhibited.

Write a paragraph about the subject’s key exhibitions, prizes, grants and commissions. It is not necessary to list include all exhibitions – a more comprehensive list can be added under the Exhibitions section. Non-artistic recognitions, such as ‘awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia,’ can also be included.

6. Is the subject’s work represented in any collections?

Briefly list the major public collections the subject’s work is held in or where the work can be found. Don’t give specific details of private collections – ‘private collections in Australia and France’ is sufficient.

For good examples of biographies, take a look at Thelma Afford, Arthur Boyd, and Shaun Gladwell.

Note: Records for historical artists may contain information about their personal life, however this may not be appropriate for living artists. Please see ‘Respect for living artists’ on our Contributor Guidelines for more information.