Australia is rich in art, and many fine artists have lived and grown up here. These artists are just a sample of the rich and varied art being produced in Tasmania at this time. They produced varied styles of work and used various media, but the scenery was a popular subject, with the mountains, rivers and coast of Tasmania providing some beautiful subjects. Portraiture was also popular, providing us with delightful glimpses of the local inhabitants. All very different in style and technique, yet all depicting the wonderful Tasmanian scenery, for us all to enjoy in the many art galleries and museums displaying their works.
Art in Australia has a long history. It goes back to at least 30,000 years with Aboriginal art. The colonisation of Australia has been greatly influenced by European modernism since the early colonists were mostly born in England or France. Although these people lived and worked only one to two hundred years ago, their life was so very different from ours, with their own wars, conquests, social and financial problems. It is good to have records of their times and to be able to view their paintings, drawings and etchings. Both from the artistic view and the historic one, they are well worth browsing through.
Dora Chapman was an artist and a teacher. She painted, she made pottery and she took a special delight in silk-screen printing. As an outstanding pupil, she exhibited her art, won prizes and tried to change society through her realistic and honest recording of life through her art. She showed great promise as a student and has left us with some honest and varied works of art. Indeed, her versatility is one of the characteristics of her art, both in the medium she used and in the subject matter. You can find examples of Dora Chapman’s work in major art galleries and on-line throughout southern Australia.
Ray Crooke was an artist and recorder of life, recording his travels with a sensitive and enduring passion. Although best known for his landscapes, he also painted some stunning portraits. He especially painted the people and places of the Australian tropics, imbibing their character with a stillness that was almost his own trademark. Crooke’s work shows attention to form and silhouette, dark shapes against light backgrounds, careful organisation of the piece together with careful drawing and a lovely colour sense. His depiction of the people and of nature is one of harmony. He lived to paint and throughout his long life, he continued to paint, right to the end.
James Montgomery Cant seems to have travelled around picking up ideas from other artists and designs which reflected the times and the places where he lived. These ranged from the rather drab English industrial scenes to the much warmer Australian landscapes and the incorporation of Australian Rock Art, as well as the surrealistic and cubism, showed a versatility which makes his paintings, sculptures and fabric designs interesting and is a reflection on the times in which he lived and travelled. In 1984, the Art Gallery of South Australia held an exhibition of his work and there are examples to be found in the National Gallery of Australia and other State galleries.
Barbara Hanrahan was a printmaker, an artist and a writer. She explored the relationships between men, women, and society, drawing on her acute observations of the people surrounding her as she grew up in the suburbs of Adelaide. In particular, the influence of her all-female household coloured her experiences and her artwork. She fought for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, yet her writing and art was personal, romantic and expressive. Almost ten years after her death, members of the award-winning Barbara Hanrahan Community Tapestry project began creating striking woven images based on her prints. This seems to be an elegant memorial for a fine artist.
George Whinnen was an Australian Impressionist & Modern painter. He painted many still life pictures of flowers in vases, and some of them have beautiful colour schemes. He had a special flair for showing zinnias in rich detail. George also painted an almost equal number of seascapes and landscapes as well as producing fine prints and etchings with fine lines. His portraits won prizes and his landscapes are also of interest. George has left us with a collection of particularly fine still life studies of flowers, where he let the flowers show themselves in all their natural grace and beauty.
Dorrit Black never received the praise she deserved during her lifetime, but she has left us with some beautiful and interesting art. Despite considerable prejudice against her, she was determined not only to produce her own works but also to help other people in Australia enjoy the Modernistic and Cubist styles which were becoming so fashionable in Europe. Dorrit’s skills were wide-ranging. Perhaps, she was best known for her pioneering printing. She also produced some very fine watercolours, oils and was a skilled draughtswoman as well. Although Dorrit never achieved financial success during her lifetime, her paintings are now worth respectable prices.
Frederick Williams was noteworthy for not only being a prolific painter but is also celebrated for his etchings. He learned to draw in the traditional manner, copying from plaster casts. Fred became interested in etching from studying prints of Rembrandt and Goya at the British Museum and spent many hours making them. But when Fred returned home, he started to move away from his mainly figure-based work to painting landscapes. One painting sold for, what was at the time, the second-highest recorded price for any work sold at an Australian auction. Fred held more than 70 solo exhibitions both in Australia and abroad. His works can now be found in numerous galleries in Australia.
John Perceval had his first exposure to art books when he attended Trinity Grammar and continued his hobby of drawing and painting by copying the old masters. When John was 14, he was disabled by poliomyelitis for more than a year and spent his recuperation by again copying art illustrations from books. In 1941, Perceval’s application for active military service was denied as he was declared unfit, but he was drafted to the Army Survey Corps as a draughtsman with the Cartographic Company. After the war, Perceval’s paintings turned to religious subjects. Despite a troubled life, John Perceval received many awards, took part in a number of exhibitions and influenced a few artists in his lifetime.
Martin Ritchie Sharp did not have a close relationship with either of his parents, but his mother still encouraged his early leanings towards art. Martin attended his first art exhibition at age nine. His art teacher recognised his talent and recommended that he study at the National Art School in East Sydney. Sharp’s first solo exhibition was held in 1965 at the Clune Galleries in Sydney and was hugely successful, being almost a sell-out on the first night. Sharp also produced posters for musicians including Bob Dylan and Donovan. Having never married or had children, his will specified that his home Wirian become ‘a hub for art education and that it should foster awareness of his work’.
Albert Tucker was interested in art from a very young age. He had a premonition then that he would become an artist. But to help supplement the family income, he left school and worked as a house painter, where he developed lead poisoning. Albert turned towards Communism when he worked for a commercial artist; he felt exploited. Albert then left the company, and with a group of like-minded artists, formed The Angry Penguins. During and after World War II, casualties from both sides of the war had a traumatic effect on him. The same can be said of the deaths of those he knew as he made portraits of them.
Frank Hurley had quite an adventurous life. Right at the age of thirteen, he ran away from home when he got involved in an incident with his teacher. His passion for photography was born when he was employed as an apprentice fitter. However, this same passion caused him to lose his job. He met and went into business with a commercial photographer when he returned to Sydney. Frank had a reputation of putting himself in the line of danger for a good shot. His real adventure, however, began when he undertook expeditions to the Antarctic, one of which was the famous expedition with Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance.
Claude Pannka was among the visual artist and Aboriginal painter of Central Australian Landscape. He was also the original watercolour artist whose vibrant and bright colours were easily exclusive. This man was adjudged one of the best students of Albert Namatjira, who taught him how to paint. As a matter of fact, Claude Pannka’s style of painting followed the familial spirit of Namatjira, where colours shift fast and merge continuously with another colour to form visual tone before the eyes. With this painting style and practice, Claude Pannka knew where he was going precisely, immediately the composition began. It was like he was just transliterating country into paint.
Brett Whiteley won his first art prize at age seven. Early in life, his works were influenced by Welsh painter Augustus John and sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. Brett was a very talented artist, winning several awards, and his inspirations ranged from bathing to animals and even mass murderers. His personal life was just as intriguing. He suffered from drug addiction, which ironically appeared to only enhance his art. He also had quite a few affairs. Both of which led to his wife filing for divorce. And tragically, his drug and alcohol addiction ultimately led him to his demise. Nonetheless, Brett’s work saw him win awards and continued to sell for vast sums after his death.
Nobody knew the Namatjira family, but with the beginning of the watercolour movement, which Albert Namatjira was one of the founding fathers, the family’s name is one of the household names across the world. As a result, the family is doing everything possible to uphold the name. Despite the fact that Albert Namatjira died as a broken man, his family is now enjoying the legacy and goodwill he left behind as a result of the copyright returned to them after many years of long struggle and injustice. The restoration of this copyright will ensure that the Namatjira family and the tradition of the watercolour movement in the Western Desert lingers on.
Australian art is referred to as any art concerning or made in Australia or created by the Australians who are residing abroad, right from the ancient periods till today. The foremost artistic representations of the Australia scene by European artists were generally natural history illustrations, portraying the unique fauna and flora of the land for scientific functions, and the landscape of the coast. All the drawings of the colony were fashioned and created by soldiers and condemned artists, until the turn of the century. The genesis of a clearly Australian painting tradition was regularly linked with the Heidelberg School of the late 19th century.
Dorothy Napangardi was one of the foremost artists of the modern Aboriginal art movement. The work of this woman was highly sought after by both curators and collectors all over the world. Dorothy’s work rotated around the sprinkled representations of the landscape around her home town. They surveyed dissimilar and complex representations of its sandhills and salt pans. Dorothy focused on the movement to grab the attention of the onlooker. She accomplished this feat as a result of her extraordinary spatial intellect and compositional capability. Dorothy had several groups and unaccompanied presentations both in Australia and abroad. Her art is now available in collections of numerous museums.