Exhibition: ‘Albert Tucker: Images of Modern Evil’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: 19th March – 26th June 2011


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night' 1948


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night
Oil on canvas on composition board
38.5 x 46.5cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1985
© Barbara Tucker



Everything that I have felt about Tucker’s work Images of Modern Evil was eloquently spelt out by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper on April 13th 2011 in a piece titled ‘Portrait of the artist as a hateful man’. Unfortunately, having searched The Age website, I cannot locate the online version of the writing. If anyone knows the link please email it to me!

Some of the best quotes from the piece are below:


“History is full of moralists who insulted people for their lack of virtue. A millennium, a century, a decade later, we read their invectives and cringe. The main cause of their distemper now seems little more than misanthropic jealousy, where the reasons for moral disapproval boil down to a hatred of other people having fun.”

“Women for Tucker are disembodied monsters. Their limbs are abbreviated so as to focus attention on their fleshy core. The implication of these aesthetic amputees is grim: through their moral destitution, the women have transformed themselves into pure carnality, promoting their organs to men as mere flesh and with nothing in the head but an imbecilic smile.”

“Critics at the time were disgusted, recognising that the images are hateful and rancorous. But because Australia was determined to have modernism, it felt for 50 years that it had to swallow Tucker’s bile and consider it exquisite – like poison in Baudelaire – and make up political justifications for an odious sentiment.”

“Strip Tucker of his metaphoric filibustering, and you’re left with less weight than the shrivelled skulls of his strumpets. If Tucker’s women are happy lasses seeking fun with men, then why is their alacrity demeaned and condemned as sinister and vile? And if they’re prostitutes, why pick on the most vulnerable in society and stigmatise them for functional signs of joy?”

“Though accepted as heroically avant-garde, Tucker’s genre is pictorial slander. Just as an unproven allegation is destined to reflect on the plaintiff, so the man who accuses women of rotten morals – when no substance backs it up – stands accused of depraved motives.”


And best of all…


“None of the wartime circumstances that writers adduce can explain Tucker’s misogyny. His ferocity comes from a declamatory soul, impatient to score points and assert superiority. The exhibition reveals talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people.”

, Robert. “Portrait of the artist as a hateful man,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, April 13th 2011.


Talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people. Very well said Robert Nelson.

Thank you for having the courage to enunciate what I, for one, have felt for a long time.

Go and visit the exhibition if you must, but if critics at the time found the work disgusting, hateful and rancorous viewing them from an historical perspective should not make them less so. These are works that lack the capacity to empathise with vulnerabilities of the human spirit and do not deserve the energy of an attentive audience to be spent upon them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil: Demon Dreamer' 1943


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil: Demon Dreamer
Oil on paper on cardboard
40.8 x 50.8cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1982
© Estate of Babara Tucker



In 1943 Albert Tucker began a new phase in his art. Recently discharged from the army and primed with a fresh vocabulary of imagery that drew upon his wartime experiences, he commenced a suite of paintings which is now seen as a turning point in the advancement of modernism within twentieth-century Australian culture. The Images of Modern Evil series, painted between 1943 and 1948, offers a probing and powerful insight into the schismatic socio-political climate of World War II and its aftermath. Though neither critically nor popularly successful at the time, the series proved formative in Tucker’s practice as a distillation of humanist, psychological and mythological ideas and as a vehicle for specific motifs and narratives that have endured within his art.

The series starts with pictures of predatory and lascivious behaviour in Melbourne’s streets at night that have a gritty, elemental edge. As it progresses there is a greater sense of story-telling, and by the series’ end the influence of the avant-garde art of Pablo Picasso – in both style and subject – is clearly in evidence. Picasso was, however, but one of a variety of literary and artistic sources that Tucker drew on to help shape the Images: others included the poetry of T.S. Eliot; the imaginative creativity of the surrealists; the roughened political sentiments and social commentary of the German expressionists; and, pervasively, Carl Jung’s psychological treatises on irrationality, myths and archetypes, and on the personal and collective unconscious.

Tucker kept the Images of Modern Evil together and in his possession for more than thirty years, before 28 of the 39 constituent works were acquired for the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Accompanied by studies, related works on paper and archival material, this is the first time that all locatable works in the series have been displayed together.

Text from the Heide Museum website [Online] Cited 11/01/2020


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil' 1945


Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil
Coloured pastel on brown paper
23.9 × 20.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1978
© Estate of Babara Tucker



Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm

Heide Museum of Art website


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1 Response to “Exhibition: ‘Albert Tucker: Images of Modern Evil’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art”

  1. June 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Looking forward to Modern Evil

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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