Archive for the 'drawing' Category


Exhibition: ‘Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection’ at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, New York

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 13th September 2015



It has been a pleasure researching the artists and the issues for this posting. Strong graphics for just social causes. Words and images are powerful tools against bigotry, racism and extremism of any form.

I realised the other day that the older I get the more liberal and socially conscious I become.


Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Featuring three main sections, Art as Activism opens with works dating from the Great Depression to World War II. The posters and broadsides from the era focus on the American labor movement, Communism, racism in the South, housing in the North, and the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.



Hugo Gellert (1892-1985) 'Daily Worker' c. 1935


Hugo Gellert (1892-1985)
Daily Worker
c. 1935
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman
Courtesy Mary Ryan Gallery, New York


J. Louis Engdahl (1884-1932) 'Labor Defender' June 1931


J. Louis Engdahl (1884-1932)
Labor Defender
June 1931
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



The Scottsboro Boys were nine African-American teenagers accused in Alabama of raping two White American women on a train in 1931. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. The cases included a lynch mob before the suspects had been indicted, a frameup, all-white juries, rushed trials, and disruptive mobs. It is frequently cited as an example of an overall miscarriage of justice in the United States legal system.

On March 25, 1931, several people were hoboing on a freight train traveling between Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee. Several white teenagers jumped off the train and reported to the sheriff that they had been attacked by a group of African-American teenagers. The sheriff deputized a posse comitatus, stopped and searched the train at Paint Rock, Alabama and arrested the African Americans. Two young white women also got off the train and accused the African-American teenagers of rape. The case was first heard in Scottsboro, Alabama, in three rushed trials, in which the defendants received poor legal representation. All but 12-year-old Roy Wright were convicted of rape and sentenced to death, the common sentence in Alabama at the time for black men convicted of raping white women, even though there was medical evidence to suggest that they had not committed the crime.

With help from the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), the case was appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed seven of the eight convictions, and granted 13-year-old Eugene Williams a new trial because he was a minor. Chief Justice John C. Anderson dissented, ruling that the defendants had been denied an impartial jury, fair trial, fair sentencing, and effective counsel. While waiting for their trials, eight of the nine defendants were held in Kilby Prison. The cases were twice appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which led to landmark decisions on the conduct of trials. In Powell v. Alabama (1932), it ordered new trials.

The case was returned to the lower court and the judge allowed a change of venue, moving the retrials to Decatur, Alabama. Judge Horton was appointed. During the retrials, one of the alleged victims admitted fabricating the rape story and asserted that none of the Scottsboro Boys touched either of the white women. The jury found the defendants guilty, but the judge set aside the verdict and granted a new trial.

The judge was replaced and the case tried under a more biased judge, whose rulings went against the defense. For the third time a jury – now with one African-American member – returned a third guilty verdict. The case returned to the US Supreme Court on appeal. It ruled that African Americans had to be included on juries, and ordered retrials. Charges were finally dropped for four of the nine defendants. Sentences for the rest ranged from 75 years to death. All but two served prison sentences. One was shot in prison by a guard and permanently disabled. Two escaped, were later charged with other crimes, convicted, and sent back to prison. Clarence Norris, the oldest defendant and the only one sentenced to death, “jumped parole” in 1946 and went into hiding. He was found in 1976 and pardoned by Governor George Wallace, by which time the case had been thoroughly analyzed and shown to be an injustice. Norris later wrote a book about his experiences. The last surviving defendant died in 1989.

“The Scottsboro Boys,” as they became known, were defended by many in the North and attacked by many in the South. The case is now widely considered a miscarriage of justice, particularly highlighted by use of all-white juries. African Americans in Alabama had been disenfranchised since the turn of the century and thus were generally disqualified from jury duty. The case has been explored in many works of literature, music, theatre, film and television. On November 21, 2013, Alabama’s parole board voted to grant posthumous pardons to the three Scottsboro Boys who had not been pardoned or had their convictions overturned.

Text from Wikipedia website



Not the usual version of this song by Billie Holiday, but a different rendition by the great Nina Simone (no date to the recording). White southerners lynched nearly 4,000 black men, women and children between the years 1877 and 1950.

This song, written by white teacher ‪Abel Meeropol‬ as a poem and published in 1937, was performed by many artists (but most notably, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone,) is a dark and profound song about the lynching of African Americans in the Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era. In the lyrics, black victims are portrayed as “strange fruit,” as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind, and becoming food for crows upon being burned.


Southern trees
Bearing strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
And blood at the roots
Black bodies
Swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’
From the poplar trees
Pastoral scene
Of the gallant south
Them big bulging eyes
And the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia
Clean and fresh
Then the sudden smell
Of burnin’ flesh
Here is a fruit
For the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the leaves to drop
Here is
 strange and bitter crop



Vera Bock (1905-73) 'Haiti; A Drama of the Black Napoleon by William Du Bois at Lafayette Theatre' 1938


Vera Bock (1905-73)
Haiti; A Drama of the Black Napoleon by William Du Bois at Lafayette Theatre
Screenprint on board
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (French pronunciation: ​[tusɛ̃ lu.vɛʁ.tyʁ]; 20 May 1743 – 7 April 1803), also known as Toussaint L’Ouverture, Toussaint-Louverture, Toussaint Bréda, and nicknamed the “Napoléon Noir” (Black Napoleon), was the leader of the Haitian Revolution. His military genius and political acumen transformed an entire society of slaves into the independent state of Haiti. The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the New World.

Toussaint Louverture began his military career as a leader of the 1791 slave rebellion in the French colony of Saint-Domingue; he was by then a free black man. Initially allied with the Spaniards of neighboring Santo Domingo, Toussaint switched allegiance to the French when they abolished slavery. He gradually established control over the whole island and used political and military tactics to gain dominance over his rivals. Throughout his years in power, he worked to improve the economy and security of Saint-Domingue. He restored the plantation system using paid labour, negotiated trade treaties with Britain and the United States, and maintained a large and well-disciplined army.

In 1801 he promulgated an autonomist constitution for the colony, with himself as governor for life. In 1802 he was forced to resign by forces sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to restore French authority in the former colony. He was deported to France, where he died in 1803. The Haitian Revolution continued under his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared independence in early 1804. The French had lost two-thirds of forces sent to the island in an attempt to suppress the revolution; most died of yellow fever. (Text from Wikipedia website)


Unidentified artist. 'Negro Peoples Theatre Presents: Langston Hughes' Great Play, "Don’t You Want to be Free?" Directed by Fanny McConnell, Lincoln Centre' 1938


Unidentified artist
Negro Peoples Theatre Presents: Langston Hughes’ Great Play, “Don’t You Want to be Free?” Directed by Fanny McConnell, Lincoln Centre
Screenprint on paper mounted on board
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that “the negro was in vogue”, which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue”.

When Langston Hughes returned from his assignment in Spain as a war correspondent, he told Louise Patterson of his idea for establishing a people’s theatre. She suggested the hall of the International Workers Order (a leftist labor-cultural group) above Frank’s Restaurant on 125th Street. This was the first home of the Harlem Suitcase Theatre, in 1937.

Named for its arena staging and lack of scenic properties, Suitcase Theatre was a peoples’ theatre composed of amateur actors. The audiences were seventy-five per cent black; admission was thirty-five cents. The program was usually two or three short pieces; The Slave, or The Man Who Died at Twelve O’Clock, or several skits written by Mr. Hughes lampooning white caricatures of blacks: Em-Fueher Jones, Limitations of Life, and Little Eva’s End. The piece de resistance was always Don’t You Want To Be Free? We had no play so the suggestion came up one evening as we were sitting there plotting the theatre, that Langston should do a play and why not a play of music-drama of many of his folk poems? So that he went home that night after we had had that discussion and sat up all night writing it and came back the next night with Don’t You Want To Be Free? (from an interview with Louise Patterson by Norma Markman, 1969)

Although Suitcase Theater lasted only two years (it did not survive its transplant to the library basement on 135th Street) the idea of a Negro People’s Theater spread to other cities. In March 1939, Mr. Hughes founded the New Negro Theater in Los Angeles.

The success of Don’t You Want To Be Free?, which opened in February 1937 and ran for 135 performances, may be found in three factors: (1) the direct appeal to the problems of the audience (most businesses in Harlem were owned by whites and only one of every six employees of the businesses were black), (2) the simplicity and beauty of the poetry and songs, (3) the appeal to unite poor whites and blacks in a fight against exploitation by the rich.

Text from The University Theatre website


Lester Beall (1903-69) 'Cross Out Slums' 1941


Lester Beall (1903-69)
Cross Out Slums
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman
© Dumbarton Arts, LLC
Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY



Lester Beall (1903-1969) was an American graphic designer notable as a leading proponent of modernist graphic design in the United States.

His clear and concise use of typography was highly praised both in the United States and abroad. Throughout his career he used bold primary colors and illustrative arrows and lines in a graphic style that became easily recognizable as his own. He eventually moved to rural New York and set up an office, and home, at a premises that he and his family called “Dumbarton Farm”. He remained at the farm until his death in 1969.

Lester Thomas Beall was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His family soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and later to Chicago, Illinois. Beall studied at the University of Chicago and was active on the varsity track team coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg. Beall also took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. After a short period of experimentation and professional work in Chicago, Beall moved to New York in 1935. The following year he established his home / office in Wilton, Connecticut.

According to his online AIGA biography by R. Roger Remington: “Through the 1930s and 1940s Beall produced innovative and highly regarded work for clients including the Chicago Tribune, Sterling Engraving, The Art Directors Club of New York, Hiram Walker, Abbott Laboratories and Time magazine. Of particular interest was his work for the Crowell Publishing Company which produced Colliers magazine. The promotional covers “Will There Be War?” and “Hitler’s Nightmare” are powerful designs which distill messages of the time. In these works he utilizes angled elements, iconic arrows, silhouetted photographs and dynamic shapes, all of which captures the essence of his personal style of the late 1930s. Also of interest in this period are the remarkable poster series for the United States Government’s Rural Electrification Administration.” (Text from Wikipedia website)


Unidentified artist. 'Vote American Labor Party; Roosevelt and Lehman' 1936


Unidentified artist
Vote American Labor Party; Roosevelt and Lehman
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



“Long before digital technology made worldwide communication possible, political protests and calls for action reached the public through posters. Posted on walls and bulletin boards, slapped up on store windows and church doors, these works often featured bright colors and modernist art-inspired graphics, and were quickly mass-produced to inform communities, stir audiences, and call attention to injustice. This summer, the New-York Historical Society will present 72 posters dating from the early 1930s through the 1970s, drawn from one of the world’s finest collections of American protest art in Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection, on view June 26 through September 13, 2015.

“These seemingly ephemeral activist artifacts are of tremendous historical and artistic importance, with deep roots in the past and a lasting influence,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Merrill Berman’s collection rivals the graphic design holdings of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and we are thrilled to be able to share some highlights with the public this summer.”

Art as Activism presents a wide selection of posters addressing movements that arose in reaction to the Great Depression, World War II, racial inequality, the Vietnam War, and environmental concerns. Featured posters include works by artists such as Emory Douglas, Hugo Gellert, James Rosenquist and Tomi Ungerer, as well as numerous unidentified designers.

Art as Activism will showcase imagery that served as the wallpaper of public discontent,” said New-York Historical’s Chief Curator Stephen Edidin. “Posters shaped the visual language of protest for generations, “going viral” decades before the term was born, until they were replaced by other forms of social media, including street art and ultimately the Internet.”


Exhibition highlights

Featuring three main sections, Art as Activism opens with works dating from the Great Depression to World War II, with themes that include electoral politics, workers’ marches and the political, social, and economic inequalities endured by African Americans. Featured works include a poster for Langston Hughes’ political play Don’t You Want to be Free?: From Slavery Through the Blues to Now – and then some! (1938), with bright red and yellow graphics of a whip in a raised fist. A colorful 1941 poster Cross Out Slums promoted the U.S. Housing Authority, which cleared slums and built new low-income housing. Using photomontage and European modernist design, graphic artist Lester Beall shows a bucolic neighborhood in the form of a hand, crossing out substandard accommodations with a large “X.”

The second section of the exhibition explores the Black Panther organization, beginning with its founding in California in 1966 and tracing its rise to national prominence. The Panthers used posters and the press to spread their message, leveraging advertising techniques and celebrity culture to compose and disseminate powerful imagery. One of the most defining photographs of this era is the iconic image Huey Newton seated in a wicker chair (1967), featuring the Panthers’ Minister of Defense enthroned in a wicker chair, holding a rife and a spear. Another highlight is the poster An Attack Against One is An Attack Against All, The Slaughter of Black People Must be Stopped by Any Means Necessary! (circa 1970), featuring the image of a black panther with massive claws and a sinuous body, poised to attack.

The final section of Art as Activism focuses on the anti-Vietnam War movement and other protest movements of the era, such as the American Indian movement and the nascent Environmentalist effort. To cut costs and distribute the message by any means available, activists printed posters on computer paper. In 1970, U.C. Berkeley students protested President Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia with the poster Amerika is Devouring Its Children, making a powerful anti-war statement by appropriating Francisco Goya’s terrifying image of the god Saturn fiendishly eating his own son. Another highlight on view is a poster from the 1975 Central Park rally celebrating the end of the Vietnam War, featuring a photograph of a Hanoi circus performer with doves balanced on her outstretched arms, offering an uplifting image and global message.”

Press release from the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library


The second section of the exhibition explores the Black Panther Party, beginning with its founding in California in 1966 and traces its rise to international prominence. Their policies of self-defense and anti-imperialism prompted FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to notoriously condemn them as “the greatest threat to internal security.” Their legacy of lesser-known initiatives to aid impoverished black communities, including a breakfast program that at its height served 10,000 kids in need every day was overshadowed as a result.


Unidentified artist. 'Free Angela Davis' c. 1970-72


Unidentified artist 
Free Angela Davis
c. 1970-72
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, although she was never a party member. Her interests included prisoner rights; she founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department.

Davis was arrested, charged, tried, and acquitted of conspiracy in the 1970 armed take-over of a Marin County courtroom, in which four persons died.

On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, a heavily armed 17-year-old African-American high-school student, gained control over a courtroom in Marin County, California. Once in the courtroom, Jackson armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages.

As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge and the three black men were killed in the melee; one of the jurors and the prosecutor were injured. The firearms used in the attack, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, had been purchased by Davis two days prior and the barrel of the shotgun had been sawed off. Davis was also corresponding with one of the inmates involved. Since California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… principals in any crime so committed”, Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970, a massive attempt to arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made Angela Davis the third woman and the 309th person to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.

Soon after, Davis became a fugitive and fled California. According to her autobiography, during this time she hid in friends’ homes and moved from place to place at night. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents found her at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in New York City. President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI on its “capture of the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis”.

On January 5, 1971, after several months in jail, Davis appeared at the Marin County Superior Court and declared her innocence before the court and nation: “I now declare publicly before the court, before the people of this country that I am innocent of all charges which have been leveled against me by the state of California.” John Abt, general counsel of the Communist Party USA, was one of the first attorneys to represent Davis for her alleged involvement in the shootings. While being held in the Women’s Detention Center there, she was initially segregated from the general population, but with the help of her legal team soon obtained a federal court order to get out of the segregated area.

Across the nation, thousands of people who agreed with her declaration began organizing a liberation movement. In New York City, black writers formed a committee called the Black People in Defense of Angela Davis. By February 1971 more than 200 local committees in the United States, and 67 in foreign countries worked to liberate Angela Davis from prison. Thanks, in part, to this support, in 1972 the state released her from county jail. On February 23, 1972, Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer from Fresno, California, paid her $100,000 bail with the help of Steve Sparacino, a wealthy business owner. Portions of her legal defense expenses were paid for by the United Presbyterian Church.

Davis was tried, and the all-white jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was judged not sufficient to establish her responsibility for the plot. She was represented by Leo Branton Jr., who hired psychologists to help the defense determine who in the jury pool might favor their arguments, a technique that was uncommon at the time, and also hired experts to undermine the reliability of eyewitness accounts.

Her research interests are feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons. Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California. She was twice a candidate for Vice President on the Communist Party USA ticket during the 1980s.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Photography attributed to Blair Stapp Composition by Eldridge Cleaver. 'Huey Newton seated in wicker chair' 1967


Photography attributed to Blair Stapp
Composition by Eldridge Cleaver
Huey Newton seated in wicker chair
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989) was an African-American political and urban activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. Newton had a long series of confrontations with law enforcement, including several convictions, while he participated in political activism. He continued to pursue an education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Social Science. Newton spent time in prison for manslaughter and was involved in a shooting that killed a police officer, for which he was later acquitted. In 1989 he was shot and killed in Oakland, California by Tyrone “Double R” Robinson, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. (Text from Wikipedia website)


Emory Douglas (b. 1943) 'All Power To The People' 1969


Emory Douglas (b. 1943)
All Power To The People
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Emory Douglas (born May 24, 1943) was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a teenager, Douglas was incarcerated at the Youth Training School in Ontario, California; during his time there he worked in the prison’s printing shop. He later studied commercial art, taking graphic design classes, at San Francisco City College. As Erika Doss wrote, “He also joined the college’s Black Students Union and was drawn to political activism.”

In 1967 Douglas became Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. In 2007, The San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jessica Werner Zack reported that he “branded the militant-chic Panther image decades before the concept became commonplace. He used the newspaper’s popularity to incite the disenfranchised to action, portraying the poor with genuine empathy, not as victims but as outraged, unapologetic and ready for a fight.”

Douglas worked at the black community-oriented San Francisco Sun Reporter newspaper for over 30 years after The Black Panther newspaper was no longer published.[5] He continued to create activist artwork. According to Greg Morozumi, of the Bay Area EastSide Arts Alliance,[6] his artwork stayed relevant. “Rather than reinforcing the cultural dead end of “post-modern” nostalgia, the inspiration of his art raises the possibility of rebellion and the creation of new revolutionary culture.”

In 2006, artist and curator Sam Durant edited a comprehensive monograph of Black Panther artist Emory Douglas’ work, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, with contributors including Danny Glover, Kathleen Cleaver, St. Clair Bourne, Colette Gaiter (associate professor at the University of Delaware), Greg Morozumi (artistic director of the EastSide Arts Alliance in Oakland, California), and Sonia Sanchez.

“Douglas was the most prolific and persistent graphic agitator in the American Black Power movements. Douglas profoundly understood the power of images in communicating ideas…. Inexpensive printing technologies – including photostats and presstype, textures and patterns – made publishing a two-color heavily illustrated, weekly tabloid newspaper possible. Graphic production values associated with seductive advertising and waste in a decadent society became weapons of the revolution. Technically, Douglas collaged and re-collaged drawings and photographs, performing graphic tricks with little budget and even less time. His distinctive illustration style featured thick black outlines (easier to trap) and resourceful tint and texture combinations. Conceptually, Douglas’s images served two purposes: first, illustrating conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and second, constructing a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized. Most popular media represents middle to upper class people as “normal.” Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and oppressed. Departing from the WPA / social realist style of portraying poor people, which can be perceived as voyeuristic and patronizing, Douglas’s energetic drawings showed respect and affection. He maintained poor people’s dignity while graphically illustrating harsh situations.”

Colette Gaiter quoted in the Wikipedia entry for Emory Douglas.


Distributed by the Robert Brown Elliott League. 'An Attack Against One is An Attack Against All' c. 1970


Distributed by the Robert Brown Elliott League
An Attack Against One is An Attack Against All
c. 1970
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



The final section of Art as Activism focuses on the anti-Vietnam War movement and other protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The mass protest movements varied greatly in their demands and their activist style. Some were violent, others peaceful. Some pushed for reform, others revolution. Regardless of their messages, these movements brought millions to the streets and forever changed American society; they helped end the Vietnam War and gave rise to watershed legislation and fundamental social change.


Jay Belloli, Berkeley, California. 'Amerika is Devouring Its Children' 1970


Jay Belloli, Berkeley, California
Amerika is Devouring Its Children
Screenprint on computer paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman




Decade of Dissent – Jay Belloli


Jay Belloli is an independent contemporary art curator and writer who created an iconic political poster while a student at UC Berkeley during the strike to oppose Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia in 1970. In this video, Jay discusses his developing politicization during the Vietnam War era and describes the urgent activity of students across the country to use political posters to define the pressing issues of the day.

This interview is part of a video series in which poster artists share stories about art and activism. The interviews accompany Decade of Dissent: Democracy in Action 1965-1975, a traveling political poster art exhibition that premiered at the West Hollywood Library, February-April 2012. Both the exhibition and interviews were produced by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

1965-1975 – years that span the U.S. war in Viet Nam – was a watershed decade for California and the country as a whole. Through legislation and demonstrations, democracy was both advanced and challenged at the ballot box, in the classroom and in the streets. U.S. democracy embraces free speech, yet California’s students fought for the right to engage in free speech in high schools and college campuses. Our democracy ensures freedom of assembly, yet the police often attacked peaceful demonstrators. The Constitution protects civil liberties and civil rights regardless of race, gender, class or ethnicity, yet African Americans, Asians, Latinos, women, lesbians, gays and others fought – and continue to fight – for their equality.

Whenever people organize and protest, artists are in the forefront of the struggles for greater democracy and justice. This exhibition documents the importance of poster art for developing and promoting the ideas and ideals of democracy in California during a very turbulent decade – not unlike the present. The posters forcefully and graphically demonstrate that democracy includes the obligation to speak-out and struggle for justice. Dissent is patriotic. The exhibition also shows the power of art to recall historical events and views of the world that can create a deeper context for understanding contemporary society. (Text from YouTube)


Unidentified artist. 'Red Power' 1970


Unidentified artist
Red Power
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman


Phil Ochs (1940-76), Cora Weiss (b. 1934) and Dan Luce. 'The War is Over!' 1975


Phil Ochs (1940-76), Cora Weiss (b. 1934) and Dan Luce
The War is Over!
Lithograph on paper
Collection of Merrill C. Berman



New-York Historical Society Museum and Library
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Tel: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday, Saturday – 10am – 6pm
Friday – 10am – 8pm
Sunday – 11am – 5pm
Monday – CLOSED

New-York Historical Society Museum and Library website


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Exhibition: ‘Nature/Revelation’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st March 2015 – 5th July 2015

Curator: Joanna Bosse


This is a fascinating exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne. Unlike the disappointing exhibition Earth Matters: contemporary photographers in the landscape at the Monash Gallery of Art this exhibition, which addresses roughly the same subject matter (climate change and its devastating impact on the earth’s many ecosystems; contemporary notions of nature and the sublime) is nuanced and fresh, celebrating “the unique capacity art has to cut through prevailing rhetoric to stimulate individuals both intellectually and emotionally in the face of current environmental issues.”

Every piece of art in this exhibition is emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically challenging. There is no “dead wood” here. As the press release states, “Nature/Revelation features international and Australian artists who are engaged with poetic and philosophical concerns, and whose work offers potentially enlightening experiences that energise our relationship to the natural world.” And it is true!

I spent over two hours on a couple of visits to this exhibition and came away feeling en/lightened in mind and body. From the formal beauty of Ansel Adams classical black and white photographs to the mesmerising, eternal video Boulder Hand (2012) by Gabriel Orozco; from the delightful misdirection of Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons to the liminal habitats of Jamie North; and from the constructed clouds of Berndnaut Smilde to the best piece in the exhibition, Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (2013, below) – every piece deserved its place in this exhibition. I would go as far as to say that Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale is the best piece of art that I have seen since Mark Hilton’s dontworry (2013) which featured in the Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. The sheer scale and beauty of the work (with its graphite on canvas attention to detail) and that doleful eye staring out at the viewer, is both empowering and unnerving. It deserves to be in an important collection.

While nature and the world we live in offers moments of revelation, so did the art in this exhibition. The art possesses moment of wonder for the viewer. Kudos to curator Joanna Bosse and The Ian Potter Museum of Art for putting on a top notch show.


Many thankx to the The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Ansel Adams. 'Clearing winter storm, Yosemite National Park, California' 1935 


Ansel Adams 
Clearing winter storm, Yosemite National Park, California 
Gelatin silver photograph
56 x 71 cm framed
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1980
© 2015 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams (right) and detail of Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (left)


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work Jonathan Delafield Cook’s Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), 2013


Jonathan Delafield Cook. 'Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)' (detail) 2013


Jonathan Delafield Cook 
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (detail)
Graphite on canvas
6 panels: 245 x 1200 cm overall
Courtesy the artist and Olsen/Irwin Gallery, Sydney



Jonathan Delafield Cook’s life size drawing of a Sperm Whale specimen possesses a haunting melancholy… [He] creates an encounter that recalls those between Ahab and Moby Dick immortalised in Hermann Melville’s famous novel. Being face-to-face, eye-to-eye with this majestic sentient being – distinguished for having the largest brain of any creature known to have lived on the Earth – is an awe-inspiring experience. The overwhelming enormity of scale and the panorama-like expanse of the whale’s skin rouse an acute awareness of our own small presence in the room (in the world).

Delafield Cook’s work belongs to the naturalist tradition, and his detailed charcoal drawing intensifies the physical qualities of the subject in a way that renders it both a forensic study and an otherworldly fantasy. The personal history of this sleek leviathan is writ large, like graffiti, on its skin: the abrasions, the exfoliations, scars and its ragged tail tell of unknown adventures in an environment that lies beyond our own experience, but one not exempt from degradation or environmental change.


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing work by Ansel Adams (right)



Gabriel Orozco (born April 27, 1962, Mexico)
Boulder Hand
Video 54 seconds
Courtesy of the artist


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons (left) and the video Boulder Hand (2012) by Gabriel Orozco (right)


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Mel O’Callaghan’s Moons


Mel O'Callaghan. 'Moons (II)' 2014


Mel O’Callaghan 
Moons (II)
pigmented inkjet print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Allen, Paris, and Galeria Belo Galsterer, Lisbon



“Climate change and its devastating impact on the earth’s many ecosystems is arguably today’s most critical global issue. Nature/Revelation celebrates the unique capacity art has to cut through prevailing rhetoric to stimulate individuals both intellectually and emotionally in the face of current environmental issues. Focusing on contemporary notions of nature and the sublime, the exhibition affirms that the world we live in offers moments of revelation, and that nature can provoke a range of associations – both fantastical and grounded – that profoundly affect us.

Nature/Revelation features international and Australian artists who are engaged with poetic and philosophical concerns, and whose work offers potentially enlightening experiences that energise our relationship to the natural world. Artists include Ansel Adams, Jonathan Delafield Cook, David Haines, Andrew Hazewinkel and Susan Jacobs, Jamie North, Mel O’Callaghan, Gabriel Orozco and Berndnaut Smilde. The exhibition also raises questions about concepts of nature and culture following the arguments of philosopher Timothy Morton.

This exhibition forms a key component of the ‘Art+climate=change’ festival presented by Climarte: arts for a safer climate. This festival of climate change related arts and ideas includes curated exhibitions at a number of museums and galleries alongside a series of keynote lectures and forums featuring local and international speakers.

The University of Melbourne, with the Potter as project leader, is the Principal Knowledge Partner of the Climarte program.”

Text from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing David Haines’ Day & Night (right) and Jamie North’s Portal II and Slag bowl I & II (left)



David Haines (born 1966 London, lives Blue Mountains, New South Wales)
Day & Night
Two channel video projection
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Cotter Gallery, Sydney



Throughout his practice – which comprises investigations into the elemental in carious media – David Haines explores sensation in both seen and unseen forms. He has a particular interest in latent energies, such as aromas, sound waves and electromagnetic currents.

Haines revisits the classic language of the sublime in his 2004 two-channel video installation Day & night. He presents dual images of the sublime: one an immense cliff face with a sea surging against its rocky base; the other a brooding cloudscape, its form gradually unfolding with a mesmeric momentum. The work is simultaneously serene and disturbing, and awakens that range of complex emotions that Kant named the ‘supersensible’ – beyond the range of what is normally perceptible by the senses. The over-riding emotional rush – the presentiment of danger – associated with this experience is a trademark of the sublime.

The abstract sense of danger shifts however when we notice the tiny figure clinging to the cliff face. The scene is abruptly divested of its fantastical quality (its symbolic power is suddenly made real), as we can’t help but identify with the solitary figure. No longer merely observers, we become participants in the scene before us. The perilous figure in Haines’ work provides a touchstone in terms of the overwhelming grandeur of nature. In the context of the exhibition, s/he could represent each of us as we confront the seemingly insurmountable environmental and humanitarian challenges resulting from the increasingly catastrophic effects of global warming.


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Jamie North 
Portal II
Cement, marble waste, limestone, steel slag, coal ash, plastic fibre, tree fern slab, various Australian native plants and Spanish moss
2 components: 107.0 x 26.0 x 26.0 cm each
Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney

Jamie North 
Slag bowl I & II
Concrete, coal ash, steel slag, Australian native plants and moss
15 x 37 x 37cm each
Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney



Viewers often mistake Jamie North’s sculptures for actual relics. The sculptures are in fact carefully crafted to emulate liminal habitats where hardy plant species grow in inhospitable conditions. More than mere simulation, each work is itself a miniature ecosystem and has to be tended accordingly.

The sculptures are cast from materials that are commonly found in industrial settings (steel slag, coal ash, marble dust, and concrete) and include local native flora. The specifics of locality are important to North, and his work is a subtle investigation of local environmental systems and the character of place as well as the adaptability of nature in urban settings…

North has an interest in terraforming – the theoretical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of a planet to be similar to the biosphere of Earth. Here, he creates his own terraforms as a reflection on the environmental manipulations that taking place in the everyday.


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Nature/Revelation' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne


Installation photographs of the exhibition Nature/Revelation at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Berndnaut Smilde’s Nimbus – Probe  and Nimbus D’Aspremont (left) and Jamie North’s Portal II and Slag bowl I & II (right)


Berndnaut Smilde. 'Nimbus D'Aspremont' 2012


Berndnaut Smilde 
Nimbus D’Aspremont
Digital C-type print mounted on diabond
75 x 110 cm
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery, London


Berndnaut Smilde. 'Nimbus - Probe' 2010


Berndnaut Smilde 
Nimbus – Probe
Digital C-type print mounted on diabond
75 x 112 cm
Courtesy the artist and Ronchini Gallery, London



The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Australian Women Artists Between the Wars’ at Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd March – 30th April 2015

Artists: Clarice Beckett, Dorrit Black, Bessie Davidson, Ethel Carrick Fox, Joy Hester, Nora Heysen, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Margaret Preston, Jane Price, Thea Proctor, Kathleen Sauerbier, Grace Cossington Smith, Clara Southern and others.



A delightful exhibition on a subject I freely admit that I knew very little about. An intelligent opening speech from Associate Professor Alison Inglis from The University of Melbourne helped me to be more informed about this fascinating period in Australian art history.

The hero for me in this posting is the work of Clarice Beckett. The atmosphere of her paintings when seen in the flesh is incredible, perfectly capturing the suffused light of the bayside suburbs of Melbourne where she painted. Her impressions are so purposeful and vivid; no extraneous flourish is necessary. Look at the painting The Red Bus for example (below) … the brief almost cartoonish outline of the bus hugs the right hand side of the composition, the red picked up by one of the two people walking in the middle of a road that runs behind the tea-trees that shield the beach from view. Every Australian would understand the symbolic quality of this mythic road.

Shadows are delineated by a few patches of darkness, telegraph poles by four swiftly drawn lines balanced on the left-hand side of the painting by a faint sign post that is almost not there, reinforced spatially by a ghostly white figure further up the painting in the middle of the road. We can almost hear the cicadas song, feel the heat rising from the tarmac, a little breeze rolling in from the sea every now and then. These cultural memories, as annotated by Beckett, will last forever.


Many thankx to Lauraine Diggins Fine Art for allowing me to publish the text and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.



Clarice Beckett. 'Winter Morning, Beaumaris' c. 1927-31


Clarice Beckett (1887-1935)
Winter Morning, Beaumaris
c. 1927-31
Oil on canvas
39.3 x 55 cm


Clarice Beckett. 'Morning Ride' Nd


Clarice Beckett (1887-1935)
Morning Ride
Oil on canvas on pulp board
29.5 x 35 cm



Clarice Majoribanks Beckett (21 March 1887-7 July 1935) was an Australian painter whose works are featured in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Beckett is recognised as one of Australia’s most important modernist artists. Despite a talent for portraiture and a keen public appreciation for her still lifes, Beckett preferred the solo, outdoor process of painting landscapes. She relentlessly painted sea and beachscapes, rural and suburban scenes, often enveloped in the atmospheric effects of early mornings or evening. Her subjects were often drawn from the Beaumaris area, where she lived for the latter part of her life. She was one of the first of her group to use a painting trolley, or mobile easel to make it easier to paint outdoors in different locations…

Australian Tonalism

Australian Tonalism is characterised by a particular “misty” or atmospheric quality created by the Meldrum painting method of building “tone on tone”. Tonalism developed from Meldrum’s “Scientific theory of Impressions”; claiming that social decadence had given artists an exaggerated interest in colour and, to their detriment, were paying less attention to tone and proportion. Art, he said, should be a pure science based on optical analysis; its sole purpose being to place on the canvas the first ordered tonal impressions that the eye received. All adornments and narrative and literary references should be rejected.

Tonalism opposed Post-Impressionism and Modernism, and is now regarded as a precursor to Minimalism and Conceptualism. The whole movement had been under fierce controversy and they were without doubt the most unpopular group of artists, in the eyes of most other artists, in the history of Australian art. Influential Melbourne artist and teacher George Bell described Australian Tonalism as a “cult which muffles everything in a pall of opaque density”.

While painting the wild sea off Beaumaris during a big storm in 1935, Beckett developed pneumonia and died four days later in a hospital at Sandringham. She was buried in the Cheltenham Memorial Park (Wangara Road) not far from another noted female artist, Mary Vale. She was only 48 when she died, the year after her mother’s death. (Text from Wikipedia)


Clarice Beckett. 'The Red Bus' Nd


Clarice Beckett (1887-1935)
The Red Bus
Oil on canvas on composition board
36.5 x 44 cm


Dorrit Black. 'The Parish Hall' 1937


Dorrit Black (1891-1951)
The Parish Hall
Coloured linocut
23 x 36 cm


Family archive image of Dorrit Black



“It is the artist’s business to reveal to mankind a new outlook on life and the world.”

Dorrit Black, 1946


It should come as no surprise that Dorothea Foster (Dorrit) Black, like other women artists, would be scorned by the sexist, conservative Australian art establishment during her lifetime. When her life was tragically cut short by a car accident in Adelaide in 1951, artist and critic Ivor Francis’s obituary declared Black was that city’s first and, perhaps least understood “modern” artist.

“She has so consistently been artistically cold-shouldered and ignored since her return here about 20 years ago that it is amazing how she maintained the courage to fight on against so much prejudice and misunderstanding,” he wrote. “… It will be many years before her exceptional talent can be properly appreciated in its right perspective, as it most certainly will be.” …

Black was part of a generation of women, alongside Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington-Smith and Grace Cowley, who took risks by travelling overseas, painting in modernist styles and pursuing artistic careers often against the wishes of their family.

“What decided me to throw in my hand altogether the other day was your declaration that I ought to consider my time as belonging to the family first, leaving my painting for my spare time …” Black wrote in a letter to her brother in 1938. “After more than 20 years of struggling to make an artist of myself, I cannot give it all up and settle down to being nothing but a good sister and daughter.”

“She was a very modern woman which meant she belonged to an age when educated women started to break out of Victorian traditions and become independent and self-determined,” Lock-Weir says.

Black travelled to Europe on three occasions, including a two-year stint beginning in from September 1927 when she studied with printmaker Claude Flight at London’s Grosvenor School of Art, and cubists Andre Lhote and Albert Gleizes in Paris. In the summer of 1928, she travelled to the south of France with Crowley and Anne Dangar, where each painted views of the medieval hillside town of Mirmande. Black returned to Adelaide in 1935 to care for her ailing mother, building a studio-house on the city’s edge at Magill where she mainly painted landscapes of the Adelaide Hills and south coast. She also continued to advocate modern art and taught at the South Australian School of Art, influencing a generation of artists led by Jeffrey Smart and Ruth Tuck.

“Plump, dignified, black-haired and well-groomed, she was regarded as a mother-figure by younger artists,” wrote Ian North in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Black’s untimely death in 1951 at the age of 59 left a small legacy of around 130 oil paintings, 159 watercolours, 50 linocuts and a handful of drawings, according to art consultant John Cruthers. “Some painters paint a lot, some paint a little, and then there’s Dorrit.”

Andrew Taylor. “Rescuing the reputation of early Australian modernist Dorrit Black,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website, June 6th 2015 [Online] Cited 24/04/2015


Miriam Moxham. 'Country Morning' c.1940


Miriam Moxham (1885-1971)
Country Morning
c. 1940
Oil on composition board
94 x 182 cm


Bessie Davidson. 'Autumn Table at Villeneuve' 1935


Bessie Davidson (1879-1965)
Autumn Table at Villeneuve
Oil on plywood
44 x 82 cm



Bessie Davidson (1879-1965) was an Australian painter known for her impressionist, light-filled landscapes and interiors.

Davidson traveled to Australia to visit family in 1914 and was there when World War I began. She returned to France immediately, where she joined the French Red Cross and served in various military hospitals. During the war, she met the woman who would be her companion for the next two decades, Marguerite Leroy (d. 1938), whose nickname was “Dauphine”.

The postwar period between 1918 and 1920 saw Davidson producing quiet, intimate, loosely impressionistic paintings – mostly interiors, still lives, and portraits – in muted tones. Her style evolved in a more vigorous direction in the 1920s and 1930s, with rich, vibrant, often dramatic colors laid on with a palette knife. In this period her work sold well and was well-received by critics. She traveled around Europe, Russia, and Morocco making outdoor sketches that she used as the basis for paintings later produced in her studio. Her landscapes are notable for their quality of light and sense of atmosphere.

In 1930 Davidson was a founding vice-president of La Société Femmes Artistes Modernes. She was a founding member of the Société Nationale Indépendentes and a member of the Salon d’Automne. In 1931 she was appointed to the French Legion of Honor, in part for her cofounding of the Salon des Tuileries, the only Australian woman to receive that honor up to that time. She exhibited widely with such artists as Mary Cassatt, Tamara de Lempicka, Camille Claudel, and Suzanne Valadon.

Although still a citizen of the British Commonwealth, Davidson decided to stay in France during World War II. She lived with friends in Grenoble, and some sources say that she was a member of the French Resistance. Her paintings from this period are strong, bright, and lively. In 1945, she returned to her old studio in Paris, occasionally spending time at a farm she bought near Rouen. In the postwar period, she painted mostly outdoors on small wood panels. She died at Montparnasse in France in 1965. She was buried in Saint-Saëns, Seine-Maritime. (Text from Wikipedia)


Bessie Davidson. 'Still Life with Flowers and Pears' Nd


Bessie Davidson (1879-1965)
Still Life with Flowers and Pears
Oil on cardboard
61 x 46 cm



“In the period between the wars, Australian women artists were leading the way by challenging traditions and exploring new ideas in art with a focus on colour, form and design, and subjects such as urban culture.

Role models like Jane Price, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern had provided women with a basis to seriously pursue art as a profession. Circumstances and opportunity1 saw a flourishing of female artists establish a career through dedicated studies at a growing number of art schools, combined with travel overseas and, quite often, financial independence.

Painting en plein air was continued but rather than romanticised landscapes concerned with effects of light, the rise of the modern woman artist painted the landscape familiar to them with an adventurous attitude towards colour: from the buses and telegraph poles of Beckett’s Melbourne bayside suburbs; to the South Australian landscapes of Sauerbier; urban scenes such as Tempe Manning’s Princes Street and the intimate depictions of home or studio as seen in Gurdon’s Under the Window and as favoured by Cossington Smith.

Whilst there was no overall identifying modernist movement, a common experience of nearly all the women represented in this exhibition was travel and studies overseas, particularly to Paris and London,2 where the exposure to influences such as postimpressionism, modernism, futurism, cubism shaped each individual artist’s subsequent style.

Seemingly traditional and feminine subjects such as still lifes, flowers, intimate interior and leisure scenes and were invigorated through the work of artists such as Proctor (The Sewing Basket); Preston (Flowers) and Davidson, who maintained her career in France.3 Women artists were also exploring more modern and urban subjects, such as Craig’s HMAS Cerberus and the iconic renditions of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Women artists tackled a wide variety of subjects, including those more accepted in the male domain, and which modern women now inhabited. Rix Nicholas ventured out to capture Australians in remote rural areas as seen in the well-known Fair Musterer (1935, QAG) and as in Boy on a Horse. Nora Heysen was the first woman awarded the Archibald Prize4 and appointed as an official war artist in 1943, as was Sybil Craig in 1945. Printmaking was also a key to the rise of modernism, most effectively by Dorrit Black as seen in The Parish Hall and also by Mabel Pye and Lisette Kohlhagen. Greater commercial and domestic design opportunities were a further important influence, including murals as undertaken by Haxton5 and the frieze-like Country Morning by Moxham.

There is an ever-growing understanding and appreciation of women artists and their influence in shaping Australian art, from ‘lost’ moderns6 to the household names such as Preston and Cossington Smith.”

Text from the catalogue to the exhibition



1. For example, the massive impact of the First World War allowed a shift away from the role of women simply as wife and mother and the economic affluence post-war, prior to the Depression, facilitated the ability to travel and contributed to opportunities for commercial art; the growth of art schools; the rise of domestic decoration.

2. For example, Black studied in London with Claude Flight 1927 and with Andre Lhote and Albert Gleizes 1927-29 in Paris; Proctor studied in London with George Lambert in 1903; Sauerbier studied at the Central School of Art in London 1925-27; Cossington Smith attended the Winchester School of Art in 1912; Crowley studied in Paris 1926-29; Davidson attended the Academie de la Chaumiere in Paris as did Syme and Rix Nicholas, among other studies in Paris and London; Heysen travelled to England, Paris and Italy; Carrick Fox travelled extensively throughout her life including London, Paris, Spain, Italy, Northern Africa, Australia, Tahiti; Preston travelled to Europe and her work was hung in the Old Salon in 1905.

3. Davidson was appointed Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for Art and Humanity by the French Government in 1931.

4. Portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman, 1938.

5. Elaine Haxton was awarded the Sulman Prize (AGNSW) in 1943 for her mural designs.

6. See Dessmann, J. and Edwards, D., ‘The lost moderns: Tempe Manning, Niel A Gren and Norah Simpson’, Sydney Moderns: Art for a New World, Art Gallery of NSW, 2013.



Sybil Craig. (HMVS Cerberus, Half Moon Bay, Melbourne) Nd


Sybil Craig (1901-1989)
HMVS Cerberus, Half Moon Bay, Melbourne
c. 1927-28
Oil on paper
44.8 x 49.3 cm



HMVS Cerberus (Her Majesty’s Victorian Ship) is a breastwork monitor that served in the Victoria Naval Forces, the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF), and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) between 1871 and 1924. Built for the colony of Victoria under the supervision of Charles Pasley, Cerberus was completed in 1870, and arrived in Port Phillip in 1871, where she spent the rest of her career. In 1924, the monitor was sold for scrap, and was sunk as a breakwater off Half Moon Bay. The wreck became a popular site for scuba diving and picnics over the years, but there was a structural collapse in 1993. Cerberus was sold to the Melbourne Salvage Company for £409 on 23 April 1924, with the buyer to break her up for scrap. The warship was towed from Corio Bay to Williamstown Naval Dockyard on 14 May for disassembly. After the salvage company removed what they could, she was then sold on to the Sandringham council for £150. The monitor was scuttled on 26 September 1926 at Half Moon Bay to serve as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club.

Sybil Craig studied privately with John Shirlow before attending art school at the National Gallery of Victoria (1924-1931) with Bernard Hall, William McInnes and Charles Wheeler. She also took private classes with George Bell and held her first solo exhibition in 1932 and as well as painting (in oils, watercolours and pastels) she also undertook more graphic work, including prints.

Craig was a founding member of the New Melbourne Art Club and was appointed an official war artist in 1945 (the third woman to be appointed after Nora Heysen and Stella Bowen) and depicted women workers at the munitions factory at Maribyrnong. Her paintings are particularly characterised by her use of colour and strong design. She is represented in key texts covering modern women artists.


Nora Gurdon. 'Under the Window' 1922


Nora Gurdon (c. 1881-1974)
Under the Window
Oil on canvas
44.5 x 54.5 cm



Nora Gurdon is well known for her late impressionist landscapes and is also associated with the Heidelberg School with Streeton a frequent guest at her country property. In 1914 Gurdon went to England and during the war nursed for two years at the Le Croisic, France. Streeton was also in Europe working as an official war artist often painting hospital scenes. In 1920 Gurdon returned to Australia and from that time added scenes from domestic life to her painting oeuvre (Peers p. 149). However she remained independent, did not marry, and made further trips to Europe in 1927 and 1937.

She was a member of the Australian Art Association and the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, (MESWAPS) joining as early as 1923. From her country property, Gurdon welcomed many fellow painters. For the members of the MESWAPS ‘successful outdoor painting days were held at the studio of Nora Gurdon in Mount Dandenong’.


Nora Heysen. '(Self Portrait)' 1936


Nora Heysen (1911-2003)
Self Portrait
Charcoal on paper
35 x 25 cm


Thea Proctor. 'The Sewing Basket' c. 1926


Thea Proctor (1879-1966)
The Sewing Basket
c. 1926
13.5 x 14 cm


May and Mina Moore. 'Thea Proctor' 1912


May Moore (New Zealand, Australia 1881-1931)
Mina Moore (New Zealand, Australia 1882-1957)
Thea Proctor
Gelatin silver photograph, brown tone
18.5 x 10.0 cm



“… the portrait of Thea Proctor is brown-toned, although the minimal studio background and the very direct gaze of the subject signals change. Jack Cato wrote of May and Mina that: ‘these enterprising young women were unable to afford the great studio premises filled with light from glass roofs and glass walls that were then the order of the day. By necessity they devised a method of portraiture by using the meagre light from an ordinary window in an ordinary room. It made their work so distinctive.’1 Despite the strong chiaroscuro, Proctor’s face is clear and her gaze direct. Her very upright pose, with her hand on her hip and no props to lean against, is that of a modern woman. Proctor’s dress was made by herself for the going-away party of her relative John Peter Russell in 1912. Other photographs from this shoot were published in The Lone Hand in July 1913 where it was noted that ‘she is singularly free from feminine tremors concerning her own work’.”2

1. Cato J. (1955), The story of the camera in Australia, Georgian House, Melbourne p 136
2. Engledow, S. (2005), ‘The world of Thea Proctor’, The world of Thea Proctor, S. Engledow, A. Sayers and B. Humphries, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra p. 37

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Mabel Pye. 'Blue Vase' c. 1936


Mabel Pye (1894-1982)
Blue Vase
c. 1936
Coloured linocut
22.7 x 18.7 cm


Mabel Pye was a printmaker and painter from Melbourne who studied with Adelaide Perry and Napier Waller under Bernard Hall at the National Gallery School. Mabel introduced the use of linocuts into her work in the early 1930’s with bold colors and lines. Her work encompassed the use of the everyday including landscapes, portraits and still life. Mabel was a member of both the Victorian Art Society from 1918-1941 and also the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptures from 1920-1950.


Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1952)


Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1952)


Ethel Carrick. (Arabs Walking Down a Street) Nd


Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1952)
Arabs Walking Down a Street
Oil on canvas
45.7 x 37.9 cm



Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1951) was the wife of painter Emanuel Phillips Fox and a major artist in her own right. Carrick studied at the Slade School. She married E. Phillips Fox in 1905 and moved to Paris. She exhibited at the Salon D’Automne, Royal Academy London, Australian Art Association, Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, as well as at solo exhibitions and dual shows with her husband’s work.

She travelled extensively from 1920-1940, and lobbied Australian public gallery directors and curators to buy her husband’s works. During the 1920s she was recommended by the Atelier Grande Chaumiere as a private teacher of still life painting in Paris, and included a number of Australians and Americans in Paris amongst her students. Carrick died in Melbourne in 1951. (Text from Wikipedia)



Lauraine Diggins Fine Art
5 Malakoff Street, North Caulfield,
Melbourne, Vic 3161
Tel: (61 3) 9509 9855

Opening hours:
Tues – Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat 1pm – 5pm

Lauraine Diggins Fine Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Shatter Rupture Break’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 15th February – 3rd May 2015


Again, I am drawn to these impressive avant-garde works of art. I’d have any of them residing in my flat, thank you very much. The Dalí, Delaunay and Léger in painting and drawing for me, and in photography, the muscular Ilse Bing, the divine Umbo and the mesmeric, disturbing can’t take your eyes off it, Witkiewicz self-portrait.


Many thankx to the Art Institute of Chicago for allowing me to publish the art works in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“Everything had broken down in any case, and new things had to be made out of the fragments.”

Kurt Schwitters, 1930



“A century ago, society and life were changing as rapidly and radically as they are in today’s digital age. Quicker communication, faster production, and wider circulation of people, goods, and ideas – in addition to the outbreak of World War I – produced a profoundly new understanding of the world, and artists in the early years of the 20th century responded to these issues with both exhilaration and anxiety. Freeing themselves from the restraints of tradition, modern artists developed groundbreaking pictorial strategies that reflect this new shift in perception.

Shatter Rupture Break, the first exhibition in The Modern Series, explores the manifold ways that ideas of fragmentation and rupture, which permeated both the United States and Europe, became central conceptual and visual themes in art of the modern age. Responding to the new forms and pace of the metropolis, artists such as Robert Delaunay and Gino Severini disrupted traditional conventions of depth and illusionism, presenting vision as something fractured. Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz explored collage, using trash and bits and pieces of printed material in compositions to reflect social and political upheaval and produce something whole out of fragments. In the wake of new theories of the mind as well as the literal tearing apart of bodies in war, artists such as Hans Bellmer, Salvador Dalí, and Stanisław Witkiewicz produced photographs and objects revealing the fractured self or erotic dismemberment. The theme of fragmentation was ubiquitous as inspiration for both the formal and conceptual revolutions in art making in the modern age.

Shatter Rupture Break unites diverse objects from across the entire holdings of the Art Institute – paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, decorative arts and designed objects, textiles, books, and films – to present a rich cacophony that exemplifies the radical and generative ruptures of modern art.

The Modern Series

A quintessentially modern city, Chicago has been known as a place for modern art for over a century, and the Art Institute of Chicago has been central to this history. The Modern Series exhibitions are designed to bring together the museum’s acclaimed holdings of modern art across all media, display them in fresh and innovative ways within new intellectual contexts, and demonstrate the continued vitality and relevance of modern art for today.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website



Ivan Albright. 'Medical Sketchbook' 1918


Ivan Albright (American, 1897-1983)
Medical Sketchbook
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Philip V. Festoso
© The Art Institute of Chicago


Salvador Dalí. 'City of Drawers' 1936


Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
City of Drawers
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Frank B. Hubachek
© Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2014


Ilse Bing. 'Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931' 1931


Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931
Julien Levy Collection, Gift of Jean and Julien Levy
© Estate of Ilse Bing



Luis Buñuel (Spanish, 1900-1983)
Un Chien Andalou



Fernand Léger
Ballet Mécanique


Ballet Mécanique (1923-4) is a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy (with cinematographic input from Man Ray). It has a musical score by the American composer George Antheil. However, the film premiered in silent version on 24 September 1924 at the Internationale Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik (International Exposition for New Theater Technique) in Vienna presented by Frederick Kiesler. It is considered one of the masterpieces of early experimental filmmaking


Claude Cahun. 'Object' 1936


Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
The Art Institute of Chciago
Through prior gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman



“The Art Institute of Chicago is introducing an innovative new series of exhibitions that presents works from the museum’s acclaimed collection of modern art in reimagined ways that demonstrate the continued vitality and significance these works have today.

The Modern Series debuts with Shatter Rupture Break, opening Sunday, February 15, in Galleries 182 and 184 of the museum’s Modern Wing. The exhibition unites such diverse objects as paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, decorative arts and designed objects, textiles, books, and films.

“We wanted to explore how the idea of rupture permeated modern life in Europe and the Americas,” said Elizabeth Siegel, Associate Curator of Photography, who, with Sarah Kelly Oehler, the Gilda and Henry Buchbinder Associate Curator of American Art, took the lead in organizing the first exhibition. “It served as an inspiration for revolutionary formal and conceptual developments in art making that remain relevant today.”

A century ago, society was changing as rapidly and radically as it is in today’s digital age. Quicker communication, faster production, and wider circulation of people, goods, and ideas – in addition to the outbreak of World War I – produced a profoundly new understanding of the world, and artists responded with both anxiety and exhilaration. Freeing themselves from the restraints of tradition, modern artists developed groundbreaking pictorial strategies that reflected this new shift in perception.

Responding to the new forms and pace of cities, artists such as Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941) and Gino Severini (Italian, 1883-1966) disrupted traditional conventions of depth and illusionism, presenting vision as something fractured. Delaunay’s Champs de Mars: The Red Tower fragments the iconic form of the Eiffel Tower, exemplifying how modern life – particularly in an accelerated urban environment – encouraged new and often fractured ways of seeing. Picturesque vistas no longer adequately conveyed the fast pace of the modern metropolis.

The human body as well could no longer be seen as intact and whole. A devastating and mechanized world war had returned men from the front with unimaginable wounds, and the fragmented body became emblematic of a new way of understanding a fractured world. Surrealists such as Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975), Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) and Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) fetishized body parts in images, separating out eyes, hands, and legs in suggestive renderings. A more literal representation of the shattered body comes from Chicago’s own Ivan Albright, who was a medical draftsman in World War I. In his rarely shown Medical Sketchbook, he created fascinatingly gruesome watercolors that documented injured soldiers and the x-rays of their wounds.

Just as with the body, the mind in the modern era also came to be seen as fragmented. Stanislaw Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939) produced a series of self-portraits as an act of psychological exploration. His work culminated in one stunning photograph made by shattering a glass negative, which he then reassembled and printed, thus conveying an evocative sense of a shattered psyche. The artistic expression of dreams and mental imagery perhaps reached a pinnacle not in a painting or a sculpture, but in a film. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) mystified viewers with its dreamlike narrative, dissolves from human to animal forms, dismembered body parts, and shockingly violent acts in an attempt to translate the unconscious mind onto a celluloid strip.

Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948) and George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) explored collage, which took on new importance for avant-garde artists thanks to the aesthetic appeal and widespread availability of mass-produced media. Schwitters used the ephemera of German society to create what he called Merz, an invented term signifying an artistic practice that included collage, assemblage, painting, poems, and performance. The Art Institute owns a significant group of these collages by Schwitters, and six will appear in the exhibition. The use of thrown-away, ripped up, and scissored-out pieces of paper, divorced from their original meaning and reassembled with nails and glue into new objects, was an act that exposed the social and political disruptions of a German society that seemed broken and on the edge of collapse in the aftermath of World War I.

Shatter Rupture Break is unusual in that it unites objects from across the entire museum – from seven curatorial departments as well as the library. This multiplicity is significant because modern artists did not confine themselves to one medium, but explored different visual effects across a variety of media. As well, the show prominently features the voices of artists, writers, scientists, and other intellectuals of the period. The goal is to create a dynamic space that evokes the electrifying, disruptive, and cacophonous nature of modern art at the time.

“We hope to excite interest in the modern period as a crucial precursor to the changes of our own time, to show how what might seem old now was shockingly fresh then,” said Oehler.

Considered one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world, the Art Institute’s collection of modern art includes nearly 1,000 works by artists from Europe and the Americas. The museum was an early champion of modern artists, from its presentation of the Armory Show in 1913 to its early history of acquiring major masterpieces. This show highlights some recent acquisitions of modern art, but also includes some long-held works that have formed the core of the modern collection for decades. Shatter Rupture Break celebrates this history by bringing together works that visitors may know well, but have never seen in this context or with this diverse array of objects.”

Press release from the Art Institute of Chicago


Robert Delaunay. 'Champs de Mars: The Red Tower' 1911/23


Robert Delaunay (French, 1885-1941)
Champs de Mars: The Red Tower
The Art Institute of Chicago
Joseph Winterbotham Collection


Fernand Léger. 'Composition in Blue' 1921-27


Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)
Composition in Blue
The Art Institute of Chicago
Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Stuart Davis. 'Ready-to-Wear' 1955


Stuart Davis (American, 1892-1964)
The Art Institute of Chicago
Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sigmund W. Kunstadter; Goodman Endowment


Designed by Ruben Haley, Made by Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company. "Ruba Rombic" Vase, 1928/32


Designed by Ruben Haley
Made by Consolidated Lamp and Glass Company
“Ruba Rombic” Vase
Art Institute of Chicago
Raymond W. Garbe Fund in honor of Carl A. Erikson; Shirley and Anthony Sallas Fund


Kurt Schwitters. 'Mz 13 Call' 1919


Kurt Schwitters (German, 1887-1948)
Mz 13 Call
The Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice E. Culberg
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


Diego Rivera. 'Portrait of Marevna' c. 1915


Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957)
Portrait of Marevna
c. 1915
The Art Institute of Chicago
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
© 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Hans Bellmer. 'The Doll (La Poupée)' 1935


Hans Bellmer (German, born Poland, 1902-1975)
The Doll (La Poupée)
Gelatin silver print overpainted with white gouache
65.6 x 64 cm
Anonymous restricted gift; Special Photography Acquisition Fund; through prior gifts of Boardroom, Inc., David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg, Sherry and Alan Koppel, the Sandor Family Collection, Robert Wayne, Simon Levin, Michael and Allison Delman, Charles Levin, and Peter and Suzann Matthews; restricted gift of Lynn Hauser and Neil Ross
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Umbo (Otto Umber). 'Untitled' 1928


Umbo (Otto Umber) (German, 1902-1980)
Julien Levy Collection, Gift of Jean and Julien Levy
© 2014 Phyllis Umbehr/Galerie Kicken Berlin/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz. 'Self-Portrait, Zakopane [Broken Glass]' 1910


Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)
Self-Portrait, Zakopane [Broken Glass]
Promised Gift of a Private Collection



The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 5.00
Thursday, 10.30 – 8.00
Friday, 10.30 – 8.00
Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 5.00
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website


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Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015



Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.


This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s

Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)



Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)


Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)


Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866


Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria



Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015


Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866


Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria



“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015


Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne



Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne



Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne


Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900


Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria


Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944


Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust



Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)


Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)


Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934


Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne


“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56


Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015


Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)


Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939


Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria



An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.


Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954


Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries


Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954


Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries



These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 



Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.



Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.



Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.


Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949


Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria


Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969


Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist



A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.



Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015


Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.


It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)



Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64


Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives


John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!


Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972


Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria


Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)


Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973


Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006


Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977


Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist


Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979


Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015


Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right


Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978


Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive


Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82


Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust


Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)


Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997


Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria



Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015


Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015



Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.


Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986


Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria


Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)



State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

State Library of Victoria website


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Exhibition: ‘Marc Chagall – A Retrospective 1908-1985′ at the Palazzo Reale, Milan

Exhibition dates: 17th September 2014 – 1st February 2015


A bumper posting on this glorious artist – another who, too late, realised the threat of Nazi Germany and only survived deportation and death by the skin of his teeth. It would have been a sad loss, for he possesses an unbridled passion for life. Social conscience, mythology, iconography, place, identity, race, religion, beauty, war and tragedy. And the exemplary use of colour in his metaphysical, fantastical scenes. But above all…. MAGIC!


Many thankx to the Palazzo Reale for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

Marc Chagall


“Chagall a pioneer of modern art and one of its greatest figurative painters… [who] invented a visual language that recorded the thrill and terror of the twentieth century…

On his canvases we read the triumph of modernism, the breakthrough in art to an expression of inner life that … is one of the last century’s signal legacies. At the same time Chagall was personally swept up in the horrors of European history between 1914 and 1945: world wars, revolution, ethnic persecution, the murder and exile of millions. In an age when many major artists fled reality for abstraction, he distilled his experiences of suffering and tragedy into images at once immediate, simple, and symbolic to which everyone could respond.”

Wullschlager, Jackie. Chagall: A Biography. Knopf, 2008. p. 4



Marc Chagall. 'Figura davanti alla volta blu' 1911


Marc Chagall
Figura davanti alla volta blu
Gouache on paper


Marc Chagall. 'Daphnis and Cloe' 1911


Marc Chagall
Daphnis and Cloe
16.5 x 21 cm
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'Il compleanno' 1915


Marc Chagall
Il compleanno (Birthday)
Oil on cardboard
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, 1949
© 2014. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Firenze © Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'The Blue House' 1917


Marc Chagall
The Blue House
Oil on canvas
66 x 96.8 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liège, France


Marc Chagall. 'Matrimonio' (Wedding) 1918


Marc Chagall
Matrimonio (Wedding)
Oil on canvas
100 x 119 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia


Marc Chagall. 'Model of great scene for "Mazeltov" Scholem Aleichem' 1919


Marc Chagall
Modello di grande scena per “Mazeltov” di Scholem Aleichem (Model of great scene for “Mazeltov” Scholem Aleichem)
Oil and black pencil on paper pasted on cardboard
Private Collection


Marc Chagall. 'Composition with circles and goat (Jewish Theatre Art)' 1920


Marc Chagall
Composizione con cerchi e capra (Teatro d’arte ebraica) (Composition with circles and goat (Jewish Theatre Art))
Oil on cardboard laid on wood agglomerate
Private Collection


Marc Chagall. 'Angelo cadente' (The Falling Angel) 1923


Marc Chagall
Angelo cadente (The Falling Angel)
Oil on canvas
148 x 189 cm
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'Bella con un libro e un vaso di fiori (o Bella a Mourillon)' 1926


Marc Chagall
Bella con un libro e un vaso di fiori (o Bella a Mourillon) (Beauty with a book and a vase of flowers (or Bella in Mourillon))
Oil on canvas
Credits: Collezione Privata
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Nude above Vitebsk' 1933


Marc Chagall
Nude above Vitebsk
Oil on canvas
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Cow with Parasol' 1946


Marc Chagall
La mucca con l’ombrello (Cow with Parasol)
Oil on canvas
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Richard S. Zeisler, 2007
© Chagall ®, by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'The Red Circus' 1956-1960


Marc Chagall
The Red Circus
Oil on canvas


Marc Chagall. 'Big Sun' 1958


Marc Chagall
Big Sun
Oil on canvas


Marc Chagall. 'War' 1964


Marc Chagall
War (Guerra)
Oil on canvas
163 x 231 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland


Marc Chagall. 'The Players' (i giocatori) 1968


Marc Chagall
The Players (i giocatori)
Oil no canvas
150 x 160 cm
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'The Grand Parade' 1979


Marc Chagall
The Grand Parade
Oil on canvas
119 x 132 cm
Private collection



“Will the hurried men of today be able to penetrate her work, her world?” is the question asked by Marc Chagall in 1947 in the postface to the memoirs of his wife Bella, who left him “in the shadows” following her sudden death three years earlier. However, this question could also be asked about his own work, the work of an artist who speaks such a universal language that he is loved by everyone alike, both young and old, men and women, scholars and men on the street. Chagall is an artist who is known and recognized by everyone and, out of all the 20th-century artists, was one of the few to remain faithful to himself despite living through a century of wars, catastrophes, political and technological upheavels.

The exhibition narrative has arisen from a question and a need: on the one hand, the attempt to understand the strength that an enabled an artist who experimented with the styles of all the avant-garde movements, to remain so consistent to himself, always curious about the world around him, developing a style that can be recognized immediately by people of any age and any social status; on the other, the need to study Chagall’s work in order to identify the secret behind the poetry of this fragile man who was yet able to keep faith with his traditions and with his humanity, despite living in a world shaken to the core by indescribable and until then unimaginable catastrophes.

The exhibition opened on 17 September at the Palazzo Reale in Milan and is the biggest retrospective ever devoted to Marc Chagall in the last 50 years in Italy, with over two hundred and twenty works – mainly paintings from 1908 onwards, when Chagall painted his first work Le Petit Salon, right up to his final, monumental works of the 1980s – which guide visitors through the artistic career of Marc Chagall. Works from the collections of his heirs, some of which have not been exhibited to the public before, feature alongside masterpieces from the world’s most important museums, including the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Centre Pompidou, and over fifty public and private collections that have so generously collaborated. The exhibition theme therefore focuses on a new interpretation of the language of Chagall, whose poetic vein developed throughout the 20th century out of a blend of the best western European traditions: from his original Jewish culture to the Russian culture and his encounter with French avant-garde painting.

“The exhibition features a comprehensive chronological narrative, which is divided into sections, starting with his earliest works painted in Russia; his first visit to France and his subsequent return to Russia where he stayed until 1921; the second period of his exile, opened by the autobiography written by Chagall when he left Russia forever, living firstly in France and then, in the 1940s running away from Nazism, in America where he endured the tragedy of the death of his beloved wife Bella; his return to France and his decision to settle permanently on the Cote d’Azur, where Chagall rediscovered his most relaxed poetic language, calmed by the colours and atmosphere of the south.

The exhibition provides visitors with an understanding of how, despite living in perennial exile, Chagall never lost hold of the thread that kept the child he used to be in his heart; how, over the years and throughout the terrible events that marred his existence, he succeeded in preserving his sense of amazement, joy and wonder inspired by nature and humanity, as well as his strong faith that led him to believe in the possibility of a better world and seek to build it in all possible ways. Visitors will also discover his highly original poetic language, born out of the assimilation of the three cultures to which he belonged: Jewish culture (the visual tradition of its ornate manuscripts inspired the expressive, non-perspectival and sometimes mystic elements of his work); Russian culture (evident both in the folk images of the luboks and the religious images of the icons); western culture (in which he assimilates the great artists of tradition, from Rembrandt to the avant-garde artists whom he frequented so assiduously). They will also observe his sense of wonder at nature and the amazement inspired by living creatures that places him closer to mediaeval sources than 20th-century ones.

Flowers and animals are a constant presence in his paintings, enabling him on the one hand to overcome the Jewish interdiction of human depiction, while on the other becoming metaphors for a possible world in which all living beings can live in peace as in Russian mediaeval culture. In the words of Giovanni Arpino: “The soul of Chagall is a bleating soul, as mild as it is invincible because it escapes the horrors, the snares, the outrages … His paradise is an earthly Otherworld that encompasses the simulacra of life, a physical place that becomes metaphysical precisely because we have all killed it during daily life.” His art constitutes a sort of metissage [mix] between cultures and traditions. The fundamental key to his modernity lies in his desire to transform contamination into a value, a work of art into a language able to ask questions that have as yet been left unanswered by mankind.

After Milan the exhibition will travel to the prestigious Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique/Koninklike Musea voor Schone Kunsten van Belgie, Bruxelles.”

Press release from the Palazzo Reale website


Marc Chagall. 'La nascita' (The birth) 1911


Marc Chagall
La nascita (The birth)
Oil on canvas original pasted on wood (plywood)
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'The Soldier Drinks' 1911


Marc Chagall
The Soldier Drinks (Soldato che beve)
Oil on canvas
109.8 x 94.7 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


Marc Chagall. 'Bride with Fan' 1911


Marc Chagall
Bride with fan (Sposa con ventaglio)
Oil on canvas
Private Collection


Marc Chagall. 'I and the village' 1911


Marc Chagall
I and the Village
Oil on canvas
192.1 x 151.4 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York


Marc Chagall. 'Nude with comb' 1911-1912


Marc Chagall
Nude with comb (Nuda con pettine)
Black ink and gouache on paper


Marc Chagall. 'The Fiddler' 1912


Marc Chagall
The Fiddler
Oil on canvas
188 x 158 cm
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam


Marc Chagall. 'Soldiers' 1912


Marc Chagall
Private collection
38.1 x 32.4 cm


Marc Chagall. 'The Old Jew' (il vecchio ebreo) 1912


Marc Chagall
The Old Jew (il vecchio ebreo)
Oil on canvas


Marc Chagall. 'Self-portrait in profile' 1914


Marc Chagall
Self-portrait in profile
Oil on cardboard
34 x 27.9 cm
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'Blue Lovers' 1914


Marc Chagall
Blue Lovers
Tempera on paper pasted on cardboard
49 x 44 cm
Private collection


Marc Chagall in his studio of Saint-Paul de Vence


Marc Chagall in his studio of Saint-Paul de Vence


Marc Chagall. 'Red Jew' 1915


Marc Chagall
Red Jew
Oil on cardboard
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia


Marc Chagall. 'The Poet Reclining' 1915


Marc Chagall
The Poet Reclining (Il poeta giacente)
Oil on board
Support: 772 x 775 mm Frame: 953 x 960 x 91 mm
© Tate, London 2014 © Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'La passeggiata' (The walk) 1917-1918


Marc Chagall
La passeggiata (The walk)
Oil on canvas
Russian State  Museum, St. Petersburg
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Al Cavalletto (tavola 18 di "Ma Vie")' 1922


Marc Chagall
Al Cavalletto (tavola 18 di “Ma Vie”)
Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Autoritratto (tavola 17 di "Ma Vie")' 1922


Marc Chagall
Autoritratto (tavola 17 di “Ma Vie”) (Self-portrait)
Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Study for The green violinist' 1917


Marc Chagall
Study for The green violinist (studio violinista verde)


Marc Chagall. 'Two pigeons' 1925


Marc Chagall
Two pigeons
Gouache, ink and blue ink on colored paper
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'L'aquila e lo scarabeo' 1926


Marc Chagall
L’aquila e lo scarabeo
Gouache on paper pasted on wooden panel
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'The Madonna of the Village' 1938-1942


Marc Chagall
The Madonna of the Village
Oil on canvas
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014


Marc Chagall. 'Mondo rosso e nero o Sole rosso' (Red and black world) 1951


Marc Chagall
Mondo rosso e nero o Sole rosso (Red and black world)
Gouache, watercolor, pastel on paper pasted on canvas
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'Il trionfo della musica - Maquette per il murale Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York' 1966


Marc Chagall
Il trionfo della musica – Maquette per il murale Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York (The triumph of music – Maquette for the mural Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York)
Tempera, gouache and collage on paper
Private collection


Marc Chagall. 'Lovers over Saint-Paul' 1968


Marc Chagall
Lovers over Saint-Paul
Oil, tempera and sawdust on canvas
145 x 130 cm
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014



Palazzo Reale
Piazza del Duomo 12
Milan, Italy

Opening times:
Monday 2.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday 9.30 am – 7.30 pm
Thursday and Saturday 9.30 am – 10.30 pm

Marc Chagall exhibition website


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Exhibition: ‘Goya: Order and Disorder’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 12th October 2014 – 19th January 2015

Curators: Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Curator of Prints and Drawings; Frederick Ilchman, Chair, Art of Europe; and Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of Paintings



This one is for me, this man of darkness.


Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.



Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'The Parasol' 1777


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Parasol
Oil on canvas, tapestry cartoon
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Family of the Infante Don Luis
Oil on canvas
630 x 838 cm
Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma, Italy


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Attack on a Military Camp' about 1808–10


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 
Attack on a Military Camp
c. 1808-10
Oil on canvas
Colección Marqués de la Romana
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'One Can't Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26' c. 1811–12


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
One Can’t Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26
c. 1811-12
Etching, direct etching, and drypoint (working proof)
1951 Purchase Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'A heroic feat! With dead men! (Grande hazaña! Con muertos!)' c.1810-1813


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
A heroic feat! With dead men! (Grande hazaña! Con muertos!), Disasters of War 39
Etching, direct etching, and drypoint



Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Unfortunate events in the front seats of the ring of Madrid, and the death of the Mayor of Torrejón (Desgracias acaecidas en el tendido de la plaza de Madrid, y muerte del alcalde de Torrejón)
1815 – 1816
From the 35 etchings making up the Tauromaquia (“Art of Bullfighting”) series
Etching with burnished aquatint, drypoint andburin on paper


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid' (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid) (Tauromaquia 20) 1815-16


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid) (Tauromaquia 20)
Etching with burnished aquatint, drypoint andburin on paper
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1' 1815-17


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano



“This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents Goya: Order and Disorder, a landmark exhibition dedicated to Spanish master Francisco Goya (1746-1828). The largest retrospective of the artist to take place in America in 25 years features 170 paintings, prints and drawings – offering the rare opportunity to examine Goya’s powers of observation and invention across the full range of his work. The MFA welcomes many loans from Europe and the US, including 21 works from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, along with loans from the Musée du Louvre, the Galleria degli Uffizi, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington) and private collections. Goya: Order and Disorder includes some 60 works from the MFA’s collection of Goya’s works on paper, one of the most important in the world. Many of these prints and drawings have not been on view in Boston in 25 years. Employed as a court painter by four successive rulers of Spain, Goya managed to explore an extraordinarily wide range of subjects, genres and formats. From the striking portrait Duchess of Alba (1797) from the Hispanic Society of America, to the tour de force of Goya’s Seated Giant (by 1818) in the MFA’s collection, to his drawings of lunacy, the works on view demonstrate the artist’s fluency across media. On view in the Museum’s Ann and Graham Gund Gallery from October 12, 2014 – January 19, 2015, the MFA is the only venue for the exhibition, which is accompanied by a publication revealing fresh insights on the artist.

“This exhibition offers a once-in-a-generation look at one of the greatest, most imaginative artists of all time,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “Goya: Order and Disorder reflects the Museum’s close collaboration with the Prado, and builds on our proud tradition of Goya scholarship.”

As 18th-century culture gave way to the modern world, little escaped Goya’s penetrating gaze. Working with equal prowess in painting, drawing and printmaking, he was the portraitist of choice for the royal family as well as aristocrats, statesmen and intellectuals – counting many as acquaintances or friends. Living in a time of revolution and radical social and political transformations, Goya witnessed drastic shifts between “order” and “disorder,” from relative prosperity to wartime chaos, famine, crime and retribution. Among the works he created – some 1,800 oil paintings, frescoes, miniatures, etchings, lithographs and drawings – many are not easy to look at, or even to understand. With a keen sensitivity to human nature, Goya could portray the childhood innocence of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga (about 1788, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) – his most famous portrait of a child – or the deviance of the Witches’ Sabbath (1797-98, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid).

The full arc of Goya’s creativity is on display in the exhibition, from the elegant full-length portraits of Spanish aristocrats that first brought the artist fame, to caustic drawings of beggars and grotesque witches, to his series of satirical etchings targeting ignorance and superstition, known as the Caprichos. Rather than a chronological arrangement, exhibition curators Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Frederick Ilchman, Chair, Art of Europe and Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of Paintings, grouped the works in Goya: Order and Disorder, and its accompanying publication, into eight categories highlighting the significant themes that captured Goya’s attention and imagination. From tranquil to precarious, Goya’s art made the diversity of life, and the conflicting emotions of the human mind, comprehensible to the viewer – and to himself.

“We decided to juxtapose similar subjects or compositions in different media in order to allow visitors to examine how Goya’s choice of technique informed and transformed his ideas, since the characteristics of each medium – and the intended audience – influenced the final appearance of the work,” said Stepanek.

Noted for his satirical eye, Goya reserved his closest scrutiny for himself. The first section of the exhibition, Goya Looks at Himself, is a sweeping group of self-portraits. In the MFA’s etching, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 (1797-99), Goya offers himself as a universal artist sleeping at a desk, while the creatures of his dreams swirl about his head. This print is grouped with two loans from Madrid, The Artist Dreaming (about 1797), a drawing from the Prado that preceded the famous print, and Self-Portrait while Painting (about 1795), from the Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Together, these works reflect Goya’s tendency to insert his persona into allegories and fantasies. At the entrance of this section is an imposing group portrait of The Family of the Infante Don Luis (1784, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma, Italy) – the brother of King Charles III – which features 14 figures, including Goya, who depicts himself working on a sizeable canvas on an easel.

“Just as Goya’s imagery is determined by whether he painted, drew or made a print, he also reconsidered certain favored subjects, reviving them from his memory and returning to them again and again during his long career,” said Ilchman. “Examining his compositional preoccupations across decades – often in the same room of the exhibition – reveals the continuity of Goya’s imagination.”

Through his art, Goya sought to describe, catalogue and satirize the breadth of human experience – embracing both its pleasures and discomforts. The artist tackled the nurturing of children, the pride and infirmity of old age, the risks of romantic love, and all types of women – from young beauties to old women. In the section dedicated to Goya’s depictions of the stages of life, Life Studies, the exhibition explores how the artist transformed observations of human frailty, creating allegories of vanity and the passage of time. A wizened woman, who is unsuccessfully attempting to adopt youthful styles in Until Death (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55 (1797-99, The Boston Athenaeum), is revived in one of Goya’s most haunting monumental paintings – Time (Old Women) (about 1810-12, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille). The aged woman is now decayed and diseased, but still clings to her outdated fashions, and is soon to be swept away by the broom of Time. Goya’s tapestry designs frequently depict young people, with relationships between men and women marked by affection, disaffection and tension. The Parasol (1777, Museo Nacional del Prado) presents a young woman who poses under a parasol with her docile lapdog – she seems to ignore her male companion in favor of engaging viewers who would look up at this tapestry, which was meant to hang over a door.

In the Play and Prey section, Goya’s creative process is revealed through representations of a popular game in which young women toss a well-dressed mannequin in a blanket. In Straw Mannequin, this carnivalesque reversal of class and gender roles is seen in a tapestry (1792-93, Patrimonio Nacional, Spain), as well as two preparatory paintings (1791, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and Museo Nacional del Prado). A late print, Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1 (1815-17, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano), imparts new meaning to the previously simple image of young women at play, as the women now strain to lift several figures, including a peasant and donkey. This more sinister vein is reflected in many of the subjects the artist returned to later in life, following the devastation of the Peninsular War and its political reversals. “Play and Prey” also explores Goya’s famous images of men engaging in hunting (his own favorite pastime) and the bullfight. In these works, including examples from the series of prints, the Tauromaquia and the Bulls of Bordeaux, Goya celebrates both activities while also subtly portraying their darker sides.

The precarious relationship between order and discord, balance and imbalance, is fundamental to Goya’s work, and the subject of the section In the Balance. The theme appears vividly in images of the punishing forces of nature, figures losing their balance and others fighting. This topic is particularly noteworthy given the tumultuous social and political change during Goya’s lifetime, as well as the artist’s own struggles with illness, dizzy spells and deafness. The MFA’s print, The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid (Tauromaquia 20) (1815-16) depicts a precarious matador, who is poised midair as he vaults over a charging bull, anchored only by his upright pole.

Goya earned widespread fame through grand portraits executed in the 1780s and 1790s, and the exhibition displays some of these masterpieces alongside more intimate likenesses of his artistic and family circle. Focusing on the painter’s approach to portraiture – from relations with sitters to his handling of paint – Portraits explores the discipline that remained central to his reputation as Spain’s leading painter and helped sustain him financially throughout his career. Paintings of the Duke of Alba (1795, Museo Nacional del Prado) and Duchess of Alba (1797, Hispanic Society of America), shown together for the first time since the early 19th century, are superb examples of his aristocratic portraits and illustrate two of his most important patrons. In the Duchess of Alba, the darkly clothed sitter points a finger to the ground, where the words “Solo Goya” are written in the sand. The assertion that only Goya was worthy of this commission and that only he could have pulled off such a dramatic likeness, changes the painting’s focus from the aristocrat to the artist.

Other Worlds, Other States features two facets of Goya’s spiritual explorations – Christian religious belief and its opposite, superstition. While Goya frequently focused on clerical abuses, religious commissions helped pay the bills throughout his life, and there is no evidence that he lacked personal piety. One of Goya’s greatest legacies is his ability to represent mental and psychological conditions. His depictions of illusions and inner reality are also on view in this section, and include visions, nightmares and the deluded mind of the insane. An imaginative rendering of a particular Spanish nightmare – a witch riding a bull through the air – is depicted in the drawing Pesadilla (Nightmare) (1816-1820).

Many of Goya’s deranged characters highlight the fragile boundary between lunacy and sanity. A luminous painting on copper from the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Yard with Madmen of 1794 – which shows distressed and helpless lunatics – anticipates a sequence of black crayon drawings made three decades later. In these later works, the individuals, whom Goya labeled as “locos,” are in even more desperate condition, restrained in straitjackets or trapped behind bars. Also in this gallery, a “learning space” offers additional educational materials and a timeline that provides context and insight into the mind of the Spanish Master.

A keen awareness of the weight of historical events pervades Goya’s work. Although he belongs in the ranks of great history painters who narrated courageous acts, he is not preoccupied with generals, patriots and battles. Instead, he focuses attention on the anonymous victims of the horrors of war or the Spanish Inquisition, and rarely fails to raise moral questions in these works. In Capturing History, works that blend the epic and mundane include a painting of an imagined scene, Attack on a Military Camp (about 1808-10, Colección Marqués de la Romana), in which a woman holds a screaming infant as she runs from assailants who have already wounded several people. In One Can’t Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26 (1810-14), the viewer is only a step or two away from the victims and the advancing bayonets of the print’s aggressors. The work is part of the wrenching print series, Disasters of War, which depict the artist’s thoughts on violence during the Peninsular War that ripped Spain apart from 1808 to 1814.

The final section of the exhibition, Solo Goya, summarizes the characteristics that establish the artist’s greatness – exploring themes such as Goya’s imagery of swarms of human figures as well as his periodic reflection on the concept of redemption. The same artist who took on the abuses of war could also evoke the most sympathetic and poignant moments of human experience, such as the Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz (1819, Collection of the Padres Escolapios). The altarpiece depicts Joseph of Calasanz, from Goya’s home region of Aragón, who founded the order of the Padres Escolapios (Piarists) to educate poor children. Goya may have attended one of the order’s schools, known as the Escuelas Pías, and might have felt a personal connection to the protagonist of the painting – his final major religious work – which comes to the US for the first time in this exhibition.

One of Goya’s most resonant themes addresses the problem with power, embodied by a central character: the giant. Conditioned by the events of his day, particularly the sudden rise and fall of military and institutional fortunes, Goya explores how power is not necessarily inherent, but comes with a cost. Goya’s Seated Giant (by 1818), from the MFA’s renowned collection of Goya prints and drawings, is among the most enigmatic and compelling of the artist’s graphic works, depicting a looming figure immobilized by the burden of power. While no single work can epitomize an artist’s achievement, this figure embodies the grandest of Goya’s great themes.

The MFA’s Goya collection owes a great debt to former MFA Curator of Prints and Drawings, and esteemed Goya scholar, Eleanor A. Sayre, who worked on the exhibitions The Changing Image: Prints by Francisco Goya (1974) and Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment (1989) at the MFA. Many of the works on view in Goya: Order and Disorder were acquired by the Museum during her tenure, including the Seated Giant; Woman Reading to Two Children (about 1819); Resignation (La resignacion) (1816-1820); Merry Absurdity (Disparate alegre) (1816-1819); and the oil sketch on canvas of the Annunciation (1785). The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 (1797-99) and the drawing of Two Men Fighting (1812-20) were part of Sayre’s bequest to the MFA after she passed away in 2001.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website


Francisco Goya 'Duke of Alba' 1795


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Duke of Alba
Oil on canvas
195 x 126 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba' 1797


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba
Oil on canvas
On loan from The Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Self-Portrait While Painting' c. 1795


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Self-Portrait While Painting
c. 1795
Oil on canvas
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



“The most inquiring self-portraits often display a cool detachment almost to the point of impersonality. These are the real backstage revelations, where the painter’s high seriousness and insight are as palpable as the flaws exposed by these virtues.

Goya in his studio is dressed like a matador or majo, a wideboy, a mistake as he himself owns: his jacket is too tight and the trousers are straining around his bulging thighs. At nearly fifty he is too old and too stout for such clothes, as he very well knows, for in letters to his boyhood friend, Martin Zapater, Goya periodically laments his snub nose, and increasing girth. Yet he chose to paint himself in the least flattering position – side on – and the worst possible light, silhouetted against a whiteness so shattering that every contour is emphasized. He might as well have stood there naked.

It is high noon in the studio. The light is so bright that nothing is visible beyond the window as reflected in the mirror, and you need to squint to see this man of darkness. The brim of his hat is ringed with candleholders; according to his son Javier, Goya preferred to paint in the clear morning light but give ‘the final touches at night in artificial light’. He may not have been the only painter to get a close glow by turning his hat into a lampstand but he is the only artist to paint himself wearing one of the candle-hats and thus revealing a trick of the trade. Presumably it is acting as an eye-shade at this moment, though he could have taken it off in the final painting for the sake of vanity, this cumbersome pot that’s too tall for his head. But size is a running gag here. Look at the tiny brush he is using to prod away at a painting so big it makes the artist look even smaller beneath his outsize headgear (matador and bull), a painting that is too large to correspond to this one for the self-portrait is surprisingly small – not quite two feet tall.

So small and yet strong enough to carry the full force of the scene, the stark light and the stark disenchantment of a man who turns upon himself very suddenly out of a spell of protracted thought. Just as in his portraits of the Spanish royal family – like the corner barker and his wife, as the French writer Théophile Gautier once described them – Goya doesn’t lay a gloss upon the facts. He is a fat man, quite probably a small fat man, tousled, unshaven, unsuitably dressed and able to see the truth quite clearly. That is what his look declares: I see how I look, I know what I am doing and who I am in this world.

Goya is probably stone-deaf by the time he painted himself in his studio at number 1 calle del Desengano, Madrid, the final cruelty of a long and mysterious illness. And the world is shut out of this picture, the window a white-out, the artist all alone in the little kingdom of his studio. The solo studio – as opposed to the buzzing workshop or atelier – was still quite a recent luxury in Goya’s day, only just becoming a place of withdrawal. It plays its part in the history of self-portraiture not just as a room of one’s own, or a refuge from society; but as the cell that throws you back on yourself and your misfortunes.”

Laura Cummings. A Face to the World: On Self-Portraits. London: Harper Press, 2009, pp. 110-111.


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga' c. 1788


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga
c. 1788
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.41)
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga' c. 1788 (detail)


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga (detail)
c. 1788
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.41)
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Witches' Sabbath' 1797–98


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Witches’ Sabbath
Oil on canvas
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz' 1819


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Padres Escolapios, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta' 1820


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Seated Giant' by 1818


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Seated Giant
by 1818
Burnished aquatint (first state)
Katherine E. Bullard Fund in memory of Francis Bullard
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Pesadilla (Nightmare)


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Raging Lunatic (Loco furioso), Bordeaux Album I, G, 3[4?]' 1824–28


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Raging Lunatic (Loco furioso), Bordeaux Album I, G, 3[4?]
Black crayon on laid paper
Collection Andrea Woodner
Photographer: Jim Strong. Courtesy of The Frick Collection.
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Two Men Fighting', Album F, 73 1812-20


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Two Men Fighting, Album F, 73
Brush and brown ink, with scraping
Bequest of Eleanor A. Sayre
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Old Man on a Swing', Bordeaux Album II, H, 58 1824-28


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Old Man on a Swing, Bordeaux Album II, H, 58
Black crayon on laid paper
On loan from The Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters' (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 1797-99


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43
Etching and burnished aquatint (first edition)
Bequest of Eleanor A. Sayre
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Until Death' (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55 1797-99


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Until Death (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55
Burnished aquatint etching with drypoint
The Boston Athenaeum


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Time (Old Women)' c. 1810-12


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Time (Old Women)
c. 1810-12
Oil on canvas
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Straw Mannequin' 1791


Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Straw Mannequin
Oil on canvas



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

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Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

July 2015
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