Exhibition dates: 19th March – 26th June 2011
Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night
oil on canvas on composition board
38.5 x 46.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1985
© Barbara Tucker
Everything that I have felt about Tucker’s work ‘Images of Modern Evil’ was eloquently spelt out by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper on April 13th 2011 in a piece titled ‘Portrait of the artist as a hateful man’. Unfortunately, having searched The Age website, I cannot locate the online version of the writing. If anyone knows the link please email it to me!
Some of the best quotes from the piece are below:
“History is full of moralists who insulted people for their lack of virtue. A millennium, a century, a decade later, we read their invectives and cringe. The main cause of their distemper now seems little more than misanthropic jealousy, where the reasons for moral disapproval boil down to a hatred of other people having fun.”
“Women for Tucker are disembodied monsters. Their limbs are abbreviated so as to focus attention on their fleshy core. The implication of these aesthetic amputees is grim: through their moral destitution, the women have transformed themselves into pure carnality, promoting their organs to men as mere flesh and with nothing in the head but an imbecilic smile.”
“Critics at the time were disgusted, recognising that the images are hateful and rancorous. But because Australia was determined to have modernism, it felt for 50 years that it had to swallow Tucker’s bile and consider it exquisite – like poison in Baudelaire – and make up political justifications for an odious sentiment.”
“Strip Tucker of his metaphoric filibustering, and you’re left with less weight than the shrivelled skulls of his strumpets. If Tucker’s women are happy lasses seeking fun with men, then why is their alacrity demeaned and condemned as sinister and vile? And if they’re prostitutes, why pick on the most vulnerable in society and stigmatise them for functional signs of joy?”
“Though accepted as heroically avant-garde, Tucker’s genre is pictorial slander. Just as an unproven allegation is destined to reflect on the plaintiff, so the man who accuses women of rotten morals – when no substance backs it up – stands accused of depraved motives.”
And best of all…
“None of the wartime circumstances that writers adduce can explain Tucker’s misogyny. His ferocity comes from a declamatory soul, impatient to score points and assert superiority. The exhibition reveals talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people.”
Nelson, Robert. “Portrait of the artist as a hateful man,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, April 13th 2011.
Talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people. Very well said Robert Nelson.
Thank you for having the courage to enunciate what I, for one, have felt for a long time.
Go and visit the exhibition if you must, but if critics at the time found the work disgusting, hateful and rancorous viewing them from an historical perspective should not make them less so. These are works that lack the capacity to empathise with vulnerabilities of the human spirit and do not deserve the energy of an attentive audience to be spent upon them.
See the full Robert Nelson review on the ArtInfo website.
Heide Museum of Modern Art
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