Archive for the 'Australian artist' Category

09
Nov
22

Text: “Historical Pressings” chapter from Marcus Bunyan’s PhD research ‘Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male’, RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001

November 2022

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801–1887) 'Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man' 1840

 

Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887)
Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man
1840
Direct Positive Print
Public domain

 

 

Since the demise of my old website, my PhD research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male (RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001) has no longer been available online.

I have now republished the first of twelve chapters, “Historical Pressings”, so that it is available to read. More chapters will be added as I get time. I hope the text is of some interest. Other chapters include Bench Press which investigates the development of gym culture, its ‘masculinity’, ‘lifestyle’, and the images used to represent it.

Dr Marcus Bunyan November 2022

 

 

“Historical Pressings” chapter from Marcus Bunyan’s PhD research Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001

Through plain language English (not academic speak) the text of this chapter examines the history of photographic images of the male body, including the male body as desired by gay men, and the portrayal in photography of the gay male body.

NB. This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Bench Press and Re-Pressentation chapters for a fuller overview of the development of the muscular male body. This chapter also contains descriptions of sexual activity.

 

Keywords

male body image, gay beauty myth, history of photographs of the male body, development of bodybuilding, queer body, gay male body, gay male body and HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS, photographic images of the male body, male2male sex, ephebe, muscular mesomorph, muscular male body, photography, art, erotic art, physique photography, Kinsey Institute, One Institute, gay pornography magazines, Physique Pictorial, Tom of Finland, cult of muscularity.

 

Sections

  • Beginnings
  • Frederick Holland Day and Baron von Gloeden
  • The Development of Bodybuilding
  • WWI, Nature Worship, The Body and Propaganda
  • Surrealism and the Body: George Platt Lynes
  • 1930s Australian Body Architecture
  • Minor White
  • Physique Culture after WW2 (Tom of Finland, 1950s Australia, Later Physique Culture and gay pornography photographs)
  • Diane Arbus
  • Robert Mapplethorpe
  • Arthur Tress, Bill Henson and Bruce Weber
  • Herb Ritts, Queer Press, Queer body
  • And so it goes…

Word count 10,600

 

 

Historical Pressings

 

Beginnings

Since the invention of the camera people have taken photographs of the male body. The 1840 image by Hippolyte Bayard, Self-portrait as a drowned man (above) is a self-portrait by the photographer depicting his fake suicide, taken in protest at being ignored as one of the inventors of photography. It is interesting because it is one of the earliest known photographic images of the unclothed male body and also a reflection of his self, an act of self-reflexivity. It is not his actual body but a reflection on how he would like to be seen by himself and others. This undercurrent of being seen, of projecting an image of the male body, has gradually been sexualised over the history of photography. The body in a photograph has become a canvas, able to mask or reveal the sexuality, identity and desires of the body and its owner. The male body in photography has become an object of desire for both the male and female viewer. The body is on display, open to the viewers gaze, possibly a desiring gaze. In the latter half of the twentieth century it is the muscular male body in particular that has become eroticised as an object of a desiring male2male gaze. In consumer society the muscular male body now acts as a sexualised marketable asset, used by ourselves and others, by the media and by companies to sell product. How has this sexual image of the muscular male body developed?

Within the history of art there is a profundity of depictions of the nude female form upon which the desiring gaze of the male could linger. With the advent of photography images of the nude male body became an accessible space for men desiring to look upon the bodies of other men. The nude male images featured in the early history of photography are endearing in their supposed lack of artifice. The bodies are of a natural type: everyday, normal run of the mill bodies reveal themselves directly to the camera as can be seen in the anonymous c. 1843 French daguerreotype, “Male Nude Study”.1 Although posed and required to hold the stance for a long period of time in order to expose the mercury plate, the model in this daguerreotype assumes a quiet confidence and comfort in his own body, staring directly at the camera whilst revealing his manhood for all to see. This period sees the first true revealing of the male body since the Renaissance, and the beginning of the eroticising of the male body as a visual ‘spectacle’ in the modern era.

Artists with an inclination towards the beauty of naked men were drawn towards the new medium. The photograph opened up the male body to the desiring gaze of the male viewer. The photograph reflected both reality and deception: the reality that these bodies existed in the flesh and the deception that they could be ‘had’, that the viewer could possess the body by looking, by eroticising, and through purchasing the photograph. Friendship between men was generally accepted up until the 18th century but in Victorian times homosexuality was named and classified as a sexual orientation in the early 1870’s. According to Michel Foucault2 this ‘friendship’ only became a problem with the rise of the powers of the police and the judiciary, who saw it as a deviant act; of course photography, as an instrument of ‘truth’, could prove the criminal activities of homosexuals and lead to their prosecution. When homosexual acts did come to the attention of the police and the medical profession it led to great scandals such as the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for sodomy.

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) 'Nude men wrestling, lock' (plate 345) 1884/1886

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Nude men wrestling, lock (plate 345)
1884/1886
Public domain

Eadweard Muybridge. Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements. 1872-1885 / published under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. Plates. The plates printed by the Photo-Gravure Company. Philadelphia, 1887

 

 

On reflection there seems to have been an explosion of images around the late 1880’s to early 1890’s onwards of what we can now call homoerotic imagery; to contemporary eyes the 1887 photographs of nude wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge have a distinct air of homo-eroticism about them. To keep such images above moral condemnation and within the bounds of propriety men where photographed in poses that were used for scientific studies (as in the case of the Muybridge photographs), as studies for other artists, or in religious poses. They appealed to the classical Greek ideal of masculinity and therefore avoided the sanctions of a society that was, on the surface, deeply conservative. For a brief moment imagine being a homosexual man in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, gazing for the first time at men in close physical proximity, touching each other in the nude, pressing each others flesh when such behaviour was thought of as subversive and illegal – what erotic desires photographs of the male body must have caused to those that appreciated such delicious pleasures, seeing them for the first time!

 

Frederick Holland Day and Baron von Gloeden

Two of the most famous photographers of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era who used the male body significantly in their work were Frederick Holland Day in America and Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden in Europe. Frederick Holland Day’s photographs of the male body concentrated on mythological and religious subject matter. In these photographs he tried to reveal a transcendence of spirit through an aesthetic vision of androgynous physical perfection. He revelled in the sensuous hedonistic beauty of what he saw as the perfection of the youthful male body. In the 1904 photograph “St. Sebastian,” for example, the young male body is presented for our adoring gaze in the combined ecstasy and agony of suffering. In his mythological photographs Holland Day used the idealism of Ancient Greece as the basis for his directed and staged images. These are not the bodies of muscular men but of youthful boys (ephebes) in their adolescence; they seem to have an ambiguous sexuality. The models genitalia are rarely shown and when they are, the penis is usually hidden in dark shadow, imbuing the photographs with a sexual mystery. The images are suffused with an erotic beauty of the male body never seen before, a photographic reflection of a seductive utopian beauty seen through the desiring eye of a homosexual photographer.

 

Frederick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Saint Sebastian' c. 1906

 

Frederick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1906
Platinum print

See Frederick Holland Day. “Saint Sebastian.” Platinum print, c. 1906, in Woody, Jack and Crump, James. F. Holland Day: Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms Publishers, 1995, Plate 53. Courtesy: Library of Congress

 

 

In Europe Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photographs of young ephebes (males between boy and man) have a much more open and confronting sexual presence. Using heavily set Sicilian peasant youths with rough hands and feet von Gloeden turned some of these bodies into heroic images of Grecian legend, usually photographing his nude figures in their entirety. In undertaking research into von Gloedens’ photographs at The Kinsey Institute, I was quite surprised at how little von Gloeden used classical props such as togas and vases in his photographs, relying instead on just the form of the body with perhaps a ribbon in the hair. His photographs depict the penis and the male rump quite openly and he hints at possible erotic sexual encounters between models through their intimate gaze and physical contact.

The photographs were collected by some people for their chaste and idyllic nature but for others, such as homosexual men, there is a subtext of latent homo-eroticism present in the positioning and presentation of the youthful male body. The imagery of the penis and the male rump can be seen as totally innocent, but to homosexual men desire can be aroused by the depiction of such erogenous zones within these photographs.

In both photographers work there is a reliance on the ‘natural’ body. In von Gloeden’s case it is the smooth peasant body with rough hands and feet; in Holland Day’s it is the smooth sinuous body of the adolescent. At the same time in both Europe and America, however, there began to emerge a new form for the body of a man, that of the muscular mesomorph, the V-shaped masculine ‘ideal’ expressed through the image of the bodybuilder, photographed in all his muscular splendour!

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931), Germany 'Two nude men standing in a forest' Taormina, Sicily, 1899

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Two nude men standing in a forest
Taormina, Sicily, 1899
Albumen print

 

 

The Development of Bodybuilding

Frederick Mueller, better known to the world as the Prussian bodybuilder Eugen Sandow, was launched on the public at the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was the world’s first true bodybuilder and he had a thick set muscular body with an outstanding back and abdominal muscles.

Bodybuilding came into existence as a result of the perceived effeminization of men brought on by the effects of the industrial revolution – boxing, gymnastics and weightlifting were undertaken to combat slothfulness, lack of exercise and unmanliness. This led to the formation of what Elliott Gorn in his book The Manly Art (Robson Books, 1986) has called ‘The Cult of Muscularity’,3 where the ‘ideal’ of the perfect masculine body can be linked to a concern for the position and power of men in an industrialised world. Sandow promoted himself not as the strongest man in the world but as the man with the most perfect physique, the first time this had ever happened in the history of the male body. He projected an ideal of physical perfection. He used photography of his muscular torso to promote himself and his products such as books, dumbbells and a brand of cocoa. He often performed and was photographed in the nude by leading photographers in Europe and America and was not at all bashful about exposing his naked body to the admiring gaze of both men and women.

His torso appeared on numerous cartes de visite, inspiring other young men to take up bodybuilding and gradually the muscular male body became an object of adulation for middle-class men and boys. The popularity of the image of his perfect body encouraged other men to purchase images of such muscular edifices and allowed them to desire to have a body like Sandow’s themselves. It also allowed homosexual men to eroticise the body of the male through their desiring gaze. But the ‘normal’ standards of heterosexual masculinity had to be defended. A desiring male gaze (men looking at the bodies of other men) could not be allowed to be homosexual; homosexuals were portrayed by the popular press and society as effete and feminine in order to deny the fact that a ‘real’ man could desire other men.4 (See the Femi-nancy Press chapter for more details on how homosexuals were portrayed as feminine). A man had to be a ‘real’ man otherwise he could be queer, an arse bandit!

 

Napoleon Sarony (French, 1821-1896) 'Eugen Sandow' 1893

 

Napoleon Sarony (French, 1821-1896)
Eugen Sandow
1893
Photographic print on cabinet card
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Still, photographs of Greco-Roman wrestling continued to offer the opportunity for homosexual men to look upon the muscular bodies of other men in close physical proximity and intimacy. A classical wrestling style and classical props legitimised the subject matter. In static poses, which most photographs were at this time because of the length of the exposure, the genitalia were usually covered with a discreetly placed fig leaf or loin cloth, or the fig leaf / posing pouch were added later by retouching the photograph (as can be seen in the anonymous undated image of two wrestlers, “Otto Arco and Adrian Deraiz”).5 People such as Bernard MacFadden, publisher of Physical Culture, said these images were not at all erotic when viewed by other men. I think I would have found these images very horny (if a little illicit), if I had been a poof back in those days.

The physique of the muscular body had appeal across all class boundaries and bodybuilding was one of the first social activities that could be undertaken by any man no matter what his social position. Bodybuilding reinforced the power of traditional heterosexual behaviour – to be the breadwinner and provider for women, men had to see themselves as strong, tough and masculine. A fit, strong body is a productive body able to do more work through its shear physical bulk and endurance. Unlike the anonymous bodies in the photographs of Holland Day and von Gloeden here the bodies are named as individuals, men proud of their masculine bodies. It is the photographers that are anonymous, as though they are of little consequence in comparison to the flesh that is placed before their lenses.

I suggest that the impression the muscular body made on individual men was also linked to developments in other areas (art, construction and architecture for example), which were themselves influenced by industrialisation and its affect on social structure. In her book Space, Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies (Routledge, 1995), Elizabeth Grosz says that the city is an important element in the social production of sexually active bodies. As the cities became further industrialised and the population of cities increased in the Victorian era, space to build new buildings was at a premium. The 1890s saw the building of the first skyscrapers in America, impressive pieces of engineering that towered above the city skyline. Their object was to get more internal volume and external surface area into the same amount of space so that the building held more and was more visible to the human eye. I believe this construction has parallels in the similar development of the muscular male body, a facade with more surface area than other men’s bodies, which makes that man more visible, admired and (secretly) desired.

Further, in art the Futurists believed in the ultimate power of the machine and portrayed both the machine and the body in a blur of speed and motion. In the Age of the Machine the construction of the body became industrialised, the body becoming armoured against the outside world and the difficulty of living in it. The body became a machine, indestructible, superhuman. Within this demanding world men sought to confirm their dominance over women (especially after women achieved the ability to vote), and other men. Domination was affirmed partially through images of the muscular male (as can be seen in the image Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave” below), although viewed through contemporary eyes a definite homo-erotic element is also present.

Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave” also presents us with a man who challenged the fame of Eugen Sandow. His name was Tony Sansone and he emerged as the new hero of bodybuilding around the year 1925. Graced with a perfect physique for a taller man, Sansone was more lithe than the stocky, muscular Sandow and can be seen to represent a classical heroic Grecian body, perfect in it’s form. He had Valentino like features, perfect bone structure and was very photogenic, always a useful asset when selling a book of photographs of yourself.

 

Grace Salon of Art. 'Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in "The Slave"' 1930s

 

Grace Salon of Art
Charles Atlas and Tony Sansone in “The Slave”
1930s

 

Edwin F. Townsend (American, 1877-1948) 'Portrait of Tony Sansone' Nd

 

Edwin F. Townsend (American, 1877-1948)
Portrait of Tony Sansone
Nd (1930s)

 

 

WWI, Nature Worship, The Body and Propaganda

The First World War caused a huge amount of devastation to the morale and confidence of the male population of Europe and America. Millions of young men were slaughtered on the killing fields of Flanders and Galipolli as the reality of trench warfare set in. Here it did not matter what kind of body a man had – every body was fodder for the machine guns that constantly ranged the lines of advancing men during an assault. A bullet or nerve gas kills a strong, muscular body just as well as a thin, natural body. The war created anxieties and conflicts in men and undermined their confidence and ability to cope in the world after peace came. During the war images of men were used to reinforce the patriotic message of fighting for your country. After the war the Surrealist and German Expressionist movements made use of photography of the body to depict the dreams, deprivations and abuse that men were suffering as a result of it. In opposition to this avant-garde art and to reinforce the message of the strong, omnipotent male – images of muscular bodies were again used to shore up traditional ‘masculine’ values. They were used to advertise sporting events such as boxing and wrestling matches and sporting heroes appeared on cigarette cards emphasising skills and achievements. These images and events ensured that masculinity was kept at the forefront of human endeavour and social cognisance.

After the devastation of The First World War, the 1920’s saw the development in Germany, America and England of the cult of ‘nature worship’ – a love of the outdoors, the sun and the naturalness of the body that would eventually lead to the formation of the nudist movement. This movement was exploited by governments and integrated into the training regimes of their armies in the search for a fitter more professional soldier. But the nudity aspect was frowned upon because of its homo-erotic overtones: Hitler banned all naturist clubs in Germany in 1933 and the obvious eroticism of training in the nude would not have been overlooked. Physical training had been introduced into the armies and navies of the Western world at the end of the 19th century and as the new century progressed physical fitness was seen as an integral part of the discipline and efficiency of such bodies. As fascist states started to emerge during the latter half of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s they started making use of the muscular male body as a symbol of physical perfection.

The idealised muscularity of the body was used by the state to encourage its aims. The use of classical images of muscular bodies reflected a nostalgia for the past and an appeal to nationalism. Heroic statues were recreated in stadiums in Italy and Germany, symbols that represented the power, strength and virility of the state and its leaders. In a totalitarian regime the body becomes the property of the state, and is used as a tool in collusion with the state’s moral and political agendas. Propaganda became a major tool of the state. During the decade leading up to the Second World War and during the war itself images of the body were used to help support the policies of the government, to encourage enlistment and bolster the morale of soldiers and public. Such images appealed to the patriotic nature of the population but could still include suspicions of homo-erotic activity, such as in the (probably Russian) poster from 1935 (below).

 

Anonymous photographer. 'The Ball Throwers' c. 1925

 

Anonymous photographer
The Ball Throwers
c. 1925
Army Training
Germany

 

“The training methods of Major Hans Suren, Chief of the German Army School of Physical Exercise in the 1920’s, involved training naked – pursuing ideals of physical perfection which were later promoted by Hitler as a sign of Aryan racial superiority.”

Anonymous photographer. “The Ball Throwers.” Army Training. Germany. c. 1925, in Dutton, Kenneth. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 208

 

Unknown photographer. Josef Thorak "Comradeship" 1937

 

Unknown photographer
Josef Thorak “Comradeship”
1937
German Pavilion at the Paris Exposition Internationale

 

“Comradeship”, at the entrance to the German pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition 1937, by Josef Thorak, who was one of two “official sculptors” of the 3rd Reich. Nazi era statues were often strangely homoerotic.6

Here comradeship should not be confused with friendship which was discussed at the beginning of this chapter.

 

Anonymous artist. 'Propaganda poster' 1935

 

Anonymous artist
Propaganda poster
1935

 

 

Surrealism and the Body: George Platt Lynes

In contrast to the fascistic depictions of the male body used for propaganda, Surrealism (formed in the 1920s) was adapted by several influential gay photographers in the 1930s to express their own artistic interest in the male body. Although Surrealism was heavily anti-feminine and anti-homosexual, these gay male photographers, the Germans Herbert List, Horst P. Horst, and George Hoyningen-Huene and the American George Platt Lynes, made extensive use of the liberation of fantasies that Surrealism offered. Although the open depiction of homosexuality was still not possible in the 1930s there is an intuitive awareness on the part of the photographers and the viewer of the presence of sexual rituals and interactions. There is also the knowledge that there is a ready audience for these photographs, not only in the close circle of friends that surrounded the photographers, but also from gay men that instinctively recognise the homo-erotic quality of these images when shown them. The bodies in the images of the above photographers tend to be of two distinct types, the ephebe and the muscular mesomorphic body.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'A Forgotten Model' c. 1937

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
A Forgotten Model
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'The Sleepwalker' 1935

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
The Sleepwalker
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) 'Names Withheld' 1952

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Names Withheld
1952
Gelatin silver print

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Armor II' 1934

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Armor II
1934
Gelatin silver print
15 7/10 × 11 4/5 in (40 × 30cm)

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Young men on Naxos' 1937

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Young men on Naxos
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955) 'Untitled' 1936

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

In America George Platt Lynes was working as a fashion photographer. George Platt Lynes had his own studio in New York where he photographed dancers, artists and celebrities amongst others. He undertook a series of mythological photographs on classical themes (which are amazing for their composition which features Surrealist motifs). Privately he photographed male nudes but was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines. Generally his earlier nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ‘ephebe’. The 1936 photograph “Untitled” (above) is an exception. Here we gaze upon a smooth, defined muscular torso, the man (too old to be an ephebe) both in agony and ecstasy, his head thrown back, his eyes covered by one of his arms. Sightless he does not see the ‘other’ male hand that encloses his genitals, hiding them but also possibly about to molest them / release them at the same time. (NB. See my research notes on George Platt Lynes photographs in the Collection at the Kinsey Institute).

We can relate this photograph to Fred Holland Day’s photograph of “St. Sebastian” discussed earlier, this image stripped bare of most of the religious iconography of the previous image. The body is displayed for our adoration in all its muscularity, the lighting picking up the definition of diaphragm, ribs and chest, the hand hiding and perhaps, in the future, offering release to a suppressed sexuality. Here an-‘other’ hand is much closer to the origin of male2male sexual desire. Looking at this photograph you can visualise a sexual fantasy, so I imagine that it would have had the same effect on homosexual men when they looked at it in the 1930s.

In the slightly later nude photographs by George Platt Lynes the latent homo-eroticism evident in his earlier work becomes even more apparent.

In his image from 1942 “Untitled” we observe three young men in bare surroundings, likely to be Platt Lynes studio. The faces of the three men are not visible at all, evoking a sexual anonymity (According to David Leddick the models are Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball.7 The image comes from a series of 30 photographs of these three boys undressing and lying on a bed together; please see my notes on Image 483 and others from this series in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute).

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled [Charles 'Tex' Smutney, Charles 'Buddy' Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]' c. 1942

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled [Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print

 

 

On a chair sits a pile of discarded clothes and in the background a man is removing the clothing of another man. The bulge of the man’s penis is quite visible through the material of the underpants. On the bed lies another man, face down, passive, unresisting, head turned away from us, the curve of his arse signalling a site of erotic activity for a gay man. Our gaze is directed to the arse of the man lying on the bed as a site of sexual desire and although nothing is actually happening in the photograph, there is a sexual ‘frisson’ in its composition.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see the undated image “Untitled,” Frontal Male Nude, for example; see also my notes on this image, Image 144, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute), were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I think, a certain perhaps not desperation but sadness and strength in much of his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (Frontal Male Nude)' nd

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled [Frontal Male Nude]
Nd
Gelatin silver print

Platt Lynes, George. “Untitled,” Nd in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 103.
Courtesy: Estate of George Platt Lynes.

 

“The depth and commitment he had in photographing the male nude, from the start of his career to the end, was astonishing. There was absolutely no commercial impulse involved – he couldn’t exhibit it, he couldn’t publish it.”

Allen Ellenzweig. Introduction to George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes. Rizzoli, 2011.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1953

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
Date unknown (early 1950s)
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1953

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
1953
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)' c. 1950

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print from a paper negative

 

 

The monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off (See my description of Untitled Nude, 1946, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute). Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The “Untitled,” Frontal Male Nude photograph (above) is very ‘in your face’ for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals).

This photograph is quite restrained compared to one of the most striking series of GPL’s photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area. A photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute.8 This image is far less explicit than other images of the same model from the same series that I saw during my research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute,9 in particular one which depicts the model with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart (See my description of Images 186-194 in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute). After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf,10 and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious (See the photograph Ted Starkowski (1950, above), and see my notes on Male Nude 1951, in the Collection at The Kinsey Institute).

Personally I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, another artist who was gay. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sunbaker
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

 

1930s Australian Body Architecture

Around the time that George Platt Lynes was photographing his earlier male nudes Max Dupain took what is seen to be an archetypal photograph of the Australian way of life. Called Sunbaker (1937, above), the photograph expresses the bronzed form of man lying prone on the ground, the man pressing his flesh into the warm sand as the sun beats down on a hot summers day. His hand touches the earth and his head rests, egg-like, on his arm. His shoulders remind me of the outline of Uluru (or Ayres Rock) in the centre of Australia, sculptural, almost cathedral like in their geometry and outline, soaring into the sky. Here the male body is a massive edifice, towering above the eye line, his body wet from the sea expressing the essence of Australian beach culture. In this photograph can be seen evidence of an Australian tradition of photographing hunky lifesavers and surfies to the delight of a gay audience which reached a peak in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, although I’m not sure that Max Dupain would have realised the homoerotic overtones of the photograph at the time.

 

Minor White

Another photographer haunted by his sexuality was the American Minor White. Disturbed by having been in battle in the Second World War and seeing some of his best male friends killed, White’s early photographs of men (in their uniforms) depict the suffering and anguish that the mental and physical stress of war can cause. He was even more upset than most because he was battling his own inner sexual demons at the same time, his shame and disgust at being a homosexual and attracted to men, a difficulty compounded by his religious upbringing. In his photographs White both denied his attraction to men and expressed it. His photographs of the male body are suffused with both sexual mystery and a celebration of his sexuality despite his bouts of guilt. After the war he started to use the normal everyday bodies of his friends to form sequences of photographs, sometimes using the body as a metaphor for the landscape and vice versa. Based on a religious theme the 1948 photograph Tom Murphy (San Francisco) (1948, below) from The Temptation of Saint Anthony is Mirrors, 1948, presents us with a dismembered hairy body front on, the hands clutching and caressing the body at the same time, the lower hand hovering near the exposed genitalia. As in the photographs of Platt Lynes we see the agony and ecstasy of a homo-erotic desire wrapped up in a religious or mythological theme.

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Tom Murphy (San Francisco)' 1948

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
From The Temptation of Saint Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Minor White (American, 1908–1976) 'Nude Foot, San Francisco' 1947

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Nude Foot, San Francisco
1947
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Other images (such as Nude Foot 1947, above) seem to have an aura of desire, mysticism, vulnerability and inner spirituality. White photographed when he was in a state of meditation, hoping for a “revelation,” a revealing of spirit in the subsequent negative and finally print. Perhaps this is why the young men in his photographs always seem vulnerable, alone, available, and have an air of mystery – they reflect his inner state of mind, and consequently express feelings about his own sexuality. In reading through my research notes on his photographs at The Minor White Archive, I notice that I found them a very intense, rich and rewarding experience. It was amazing to find Minor White photographs of erect penises dating from the 1940s amongst the archive but even more amazing was the presence that these photographs had for me. The other overriding feeling was one of perhaps loneliness, sadness, anguish(?), for the bodies seemed to be just observed and not partaken of. As with Platt Lynes photographs of men, very few of Minor White’s male portraits were ever exhibited in his lifetime because of his fear of being exposed as a homosexual.

 

Physique Culture after WW2

At the same time that Minor White was exploring anxieties surrounding his sexuality and his war experiences, many other American men were returning home from WWII to America to find that they had to reaffirm the traditional place of the male as the breadwinner within the family unit. Masculinity and a muscular body image was critical in this reaffirmation. Powerful in build and strong in image it was used to counter the threat of newly independent females, females who had taken over the jobs of men while they were away at war. Conversely, many gay men returned home to America after the war knowing that they were not as alone as they had previously thought, having socialised, associated, fought and had sex with others of their kind. There were other gay men out there in the world and the beginnings of contemporary gay society started to be formed. A desire by some gay men for the masculine body image found expression in the publications of body-building books and magazines that continued to be produced within the boundaries of social acceptability after the Second World War.

Photographers such as Russ Warner, Al Urban, Lon of New York (who began their careers in the late 1930’s), Bob Mizer (started Physique Pictorial in 1945), Charles Renslow (started Kris studio in 1954), and Bruce of Los Angeles, sought out models on both sides of the Atlantic (See my notes on the images of some of these photographers held in the Collection at the Kinsey Institute). Models appeared in posing pouches or the negatives were again airbrushed to hide offending genitalia. Some unpublished images from 1942-1950 by Bruce of Los Angeles show an older man sucking off a stiff younger man (See my notes on Images No. 52001-52004 from the link above) but this is the rare exception rather than the rule.

 

Bob Mizer/Athletic Model Guild. 'Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross' Nd

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild
Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross
Nd

Mizer, Bob/Athletic Model Guild. “Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross,” Nd, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 19.

 

Joe Corey. 'Bill Henry and Bob Baker' Nd

 

Joe Corey
Bill Henry and Bob Baker
Nd

Corey, Joe. “Bill Henry and Bob Baker,” Nd, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 27.

 

 

Appealing to a closeted homosexual clientele the published images seem, on reflection, to have had a more open, homo-erotic quality to them than earlier physique photographs. This can be observed in the two undated images, “Irwin Kosewski and Jerry Ross,” by Bob Mizer / Athletic Model Guild and “Bill Henry and Bob Baker,” by Joe Carey. The first image carries on the tradition of the Sansone image “The Slave,” but further develops the sado-masochistic overtones; such wrestling photographs became popular just because the models were shown touching each other, which could provide sexual arousal for gay men looking at the photographs.

Some photographs were taken out of doors instead of always in the studio, possibly an expression of a more open attitude to ways of depicting the nude male body. The bodies in the ‘beefcake’ magazines of the 1950’s tend to be bigger than that of the ephebe, even when the models were quite young in some cases. As the name ‘beefcake’ implies, the muscular mesomorphic shape was the attraction of these bodies – perfectly proportioned Adonis’s with bulging pectorals, large biceps, hard as rock abdomens and small waists. The 1950’s saw the beginning of the fixation of gay men with the muscular mesomorph as the ultimate ideal image of a male body. The lithe bodies of young dancers and swimmers now gives way to muscle – a built body, large in its construction, solid and dependable, sculpted like a piece of rock. These bodies are usually smooth and it is difficult to find a hirsute body11 in any of the photographs from the physique magazines of this time. According to Alan Berube in his book, Coming Out Under Fire,

“The post-war growth and commercialization of gay male erotica in the form of mail-order 8 mm films, photographic stills, and physique magazines were developed in part by veterans and drew heavily on World War II uniforms and iconography for erotic imagery.”12

.
Looking through images from the 1940s in the collection at The Kinsey Institute, I did find that uniforms were used as a fetish in some of the explicitly erotic photographs as a form of sexual iconography. These photographs of male2male sex were for private consumption only. I found little evidence of the use of uniforms as sexual iconography in the published photographs of the physique magazines. Here image composition mainly featured classical themes, beach scenes, outdoor and studio settings.

 

Touko Valio Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) (Finnish, 1920-1991) 'Untitled' 1973

 

Touko Valio Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) (Finnish, 1920-1991)
Untitled
1973

 

'Physique Pictorial' Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1957

 

Physique Pictorial Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1957. Tom of Finland, Touko Laaksonen (cover)

This issue features the debut American appearance of “Tom, a Finnish artist,” a.k.a. Tom of Finland who produced both the cover illustration of loggers and an interior companion shot.

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild. Cover of 'Physique Pictorial' Vol. 14, No. 2, 1964

 

Bob Mizer (American, 1922-1992) / Athletic Model Guild
Cover of Physique Pictorial Vol. 14, No. 2, 1964
32 pages, black and white illustrations
Illustrated saddle-stapled self-wrappers
21cm x 13cm

 

 

Tom of Finland

Although not a photographer one gay artist who was heavily influenced by the uniforms and muscularity of soldiers he lusted after and had sex with during the war was Touko Laaksonen, known as ‘Tom of Finland’. His images featured hunky, leather clad bikers, sailors, and rough trade ploughing their enlarged, engorged penises up the rears of chunky men in graphic scenes of male2male sex. His images portrayed gay men as the hard-bodied epitome of masculinity, contrary to the nancy boy image of the limp wristed poof that was the stereotype in the hetero / homosexual community up until the 1960s and even later. His early images were again only for private consumption. His first success was a (non-sexual) drawing of a well built male body that he sent to America. It appeared on the cover of the spring 1957 issue of Physique Pictorial (above). Here we see a link between the drawings of Tom of Finland and the construction of a body engineered towards selling to a homosexual market, the male body as marketable commodity. His drawings of muscular men were influenced by the bodies in the beefcake magazines and the bodies of the soldiers he desired. Tom of Finland, in an exaggerated way, portrayed the desirability of this type of body for gay men by emphasising that, for him, gay sex and gay bodies are ultimately ‘masculine’.

 

1950s Australia

Very little of this iconography of the muscular male was available to gay men in Australia throughout the 1950’s. The few publications that became available were likely to have come from America or the United Kingdom. Instead heterosexual photographers such as Max Dupain took images of Australian beach culture such as the 1952 image At Newport, Australia, 1952 (below). Dupain took a series of photographs of this beautiful young man, ‘the lad’ as he calls him,13 climbing out of the pool. Elegant in its structural form ‘the lad’ is oblivious to the camera’s and our gaze. Although the body is toned and tanned this body image is a much more ‘natural’ representation of the male body than the photographs in the physique magazines, with all their posing and preening for the camera.

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport Baths' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport, Australia, 1952
1952
Gelatin silver print

Dupain, Max. “At Newport, Australia, 1952.” 1952, in Bilson, Amanda (ed.,). Max Dupain’s Australia. Ringwood: Viking, 1986, p. 157.

 

John Graham. 'Clive Norman' Nd

 

John Graham
Clive Norman
Nd

Graham, John. “Clive Norman,” Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 38.

 

John Graham. 'Detail from Parthenon Frieze'. Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum Nd and Lon of New York in London. 'Jim Stevens' Nd

 

John Graham
Detail from Parthenon Frieze
Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum
Nd

Lon of New York in London
Jim Stevens
Nd

Graham, John. “Detail from Parthenon Frieze.” Elgin Marble Friezes, British Museum, Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. vi.

Lon of New York in London. “Jim Stevens,” Nd in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 13.

 

 

Later Physique Culture and gay pornography photographs

Images of the body in the physique magazines of the 1940s-1960s are invariably smooth, muscular and defined. A perfect example of the type can be seen in the undated image Clive Norman by John Graham (above). The images rely heavily on the iconography of classical Rome and Greece to legitimise their homo-erotic overtones. Use was made of columns, drapery, and sets that presented the male body as the contemporary equivalent of idealised male beauty of ancient times.

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s other stereotypes became available to the photographers – for example the imagery of the marine, the sailor, the biker, the boy on a tropical island, the wrestler, the boxer, the mechanic. The photographs become more raunchy in their depiction of male nudity. In the 1950s, however, classical aspirations were never far from the photographers minds when composing the images as can be seen in the undated photograph Jim Stevens by Lon of New York in London (above) taken from a book called ‘Art in Physique Photography’.14 This book, illustrated with drawings of classical warrior figures by David Angelo, is subtitled: ‘An Album of the world’s finest photographs of the male physique’.

Here we observe a link between art and the body. This connection was used to confirm the social acceptability of physique photographs of the male body while still leaving them open to other alternative readings. One alternative reading was made by gay men who could buy these socially acceptable physique magazines to gaze with desire upon the naked form of the male body. It is interesting to note that with the advent of the first openly gay pornography magazines after the ruling on obscenity by the Supreme Court in America in the late 1960s (See my research notes on this subject from The One Institute),15 classical figures were still used to justify the desiring gaze of the camera and viewer upon the bodies of men. Another reason used by early gay pornography magazines to justify photographs of men having sex together was that the images were only for educational purposes!

Even in the mid 1970s companies such as Colt Studios, which has built a reputation for photographing hunky, very well built masculine men, used classical themes in their photography of muscular young men. Most of the early Colt magazines have photographs of naked young men that are accompanied by photographs and illustrations based on classical themes as can be seen in the image below. In their early magazines quite a proportion of the bodies were hirsute or had moustaches as was popular with the clone image at the time. Later models of the early 1980s tend towards the buff, tanned, stereotypical muscular mesomorph in even greater numbers. Sometimes sexual acts are portrayed in Colt magazines but mainly they are not. It is the “look” of the body and the face that the viewers desiring gaze is directed towards – not the sexual act itself. As the Colt magazine says,

“Our aim in Olympus is to wed the classic elegance of ancient Greece and Rome to the contemporary look of the ’70s. With some models that takes some doing: they may have one or two exceptional features, but the overall picture doesn’t make it … Erron, our current subject, comes closer to the ideal – in his own way … Erron stands 5’10”. He is 22 years old and is the spirit of the free-wheeling, unhampered single stud … And to many the morning after, he is ‘the man that got away’.”16

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Erron' 1973

 

Anonymous photographer
Erron
Olympus from Colt Studios Vol. 1. No 2.
1973

 

 

Erron does attempt to come closer to the ‘ideal’ but not, I think, in his own way for it is an ‘ideal’ based on a stereotypical masculine image from a past culture. Is he doing his own thing or someone else’s thing, based on an image already prescribed from the past?

As social morals relaxed in the age of ‘free love’, physique photographers such as Bob Mizer from Athletic Model Guild produced more openly homo-erotic images. In his work from the 1970s full erections are not prevalent but semi-erect penises do feature, as do revealing “moon” shots from the rear focusing on the arsehole as a site for male libidinal desires. A less closeted, more open expression of homosexual desire can be seen in the photographs of the male body in the 1970s.17 What can also be seen in the images of gay pornography magazines from the mid 1970s onwards is the continued development of the dominant stereotypical ‘ideal’ body image that is present in contemporary gay male society – that of the smooth, white, tanned, muscular mesomorphic body image.

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
1962
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971) 'Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Diane Arbus

In the 1960s and 1970s other photographers were also interested in alternative representations of the male body, notably Diane Arbus. Arbus was renowned for ‘in your face’ photographs of the supposed oddities and freaks of society. She photographed body-builders with their trophies, dwarfs, giants, and all sorts of interesting people she found fascinating because of their sexual orientation, hobbies and fetishes. She photographed gay men, lesbians and transsexuals in their homes and hangouts.

I think the image Seated man in a bra and stockings, N.Y.C., 1967 (above), reveals a different side of masculinity, not conforming to the stereotypical depiction of ‘masculinity’ proposed by the form of the muscular body. Yes, the subject is wary of the camera, hand gripping the chair arm, legs crossed in a protective manner. But I think that the important significance of this photograph lies in the fact that the subject allowed himself to be photographed at all, with his face visible, prepared to reveal this portion of his life to the probing of Arbus’ lens. In the closeted and conservative era of the 1960s (remember this is before Gay Liberation), to allow himself to be photographed in this way would have taken an act of courage, because of the fear of discrimination and persecution including the possible loss of job, home, friends, family and even life if this photograph ever came to the attention of employers, landlords and bigots.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Charles and Jim' 1974

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Charles and Jim' 1974

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Charles and Jim
1974
Gelatin silver prints

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Charles and Jim, 1974, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, pp. 26-27.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'White Sheet' 1974 (detail)

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
White Sheet (detail)
1974
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Detail of White Sheet, 1974, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 74.

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe. The name of one of the most controversial photographers of the 20th century. Well known to gay men around the world for his ground breaking depiction of sexuality and the body through his photographs of black men and the sadomasochistic acts within the leather scene in gay community. The exhibiting of his images was only possible after the liberation of sexualities brought about by Stonewall and the start of the fight for Gay Liberation in 1969. Early images, such as three from the sequence of photographs Charles and Jim (1974, above) feature ‘natural’ bodies – hairy, scrawny, thin – in close physical proximity with each other, engaged in gay sex, sucking each others dicks in other photographs from this sequence. There is a tenderness and affection to the whole sequence, as the couple undress, suck, kiss and embrace. Compare the photographs with the photograph by Minor White of Tom Murphy (San Francisco) (1948, above) Gone is the religious agony, loneliness and isolation of a man (the photographer), who fears an open expression of his sexuality, replaced by the gaze and touch of a man comfortable with his sexuality and the object of his desire.

Although Mapplethorpe used the bodies of his friends and himself in the early photographs he was still drawn to images of muscular men that had a definite homoerotic quality to them, as can be seen in the detail of the 1974 work White Sheet. Blatant in its hard muscularity the boys stare at each other, flexing their muscles, one arm around the back of the others neck. This attraction to the perfect muscular body became more obvious in the later work of Mapplethorpe, especially in his depiction of black men and their hard, graphic bodies. Mapplethorpe even used to coat his black models in graphite so that the skin took on a grey lustre, adding to the feeling that the skin was made of marble and was impenetrable. Mapplethorpe’s photographs of black men come from a lineage that can be traced back through Frederick Holland Day (see below) to Herbert List and George Platt Lynes who all photographed black men. In the 1979 image of Bob Love (below), Mapplethorpe worships the body and the penis of Bob Love, placing him on a pedestal reminiscent of those used in the physique magazines of an earlier era.

 

F. Holland Day. 'Ebony and Ivory' 1899

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Ebony and Ivory
1899

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Bob Love' 1979

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Bob Love
1979
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Bob Love, 1979, in Holborn, Mark and Levas, Dimitri. Mapplethorpe Altars. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995, p. 71.

 

 

Around the same time that Mapplethorpe was photographing the first of his black nudes he was also portraying acts of sexual pleasure in his photographs of the gay S/M scene. In these photographs the bodies are usually shielded from scrutiny by leather and rubber but are more revealing of the intentions and personalities of the people depicted in them, perhaps because Mapplethorpe was taking part in these activities himself as well as just depicting them. There is a sense of connection with the people and the situations that occur before his lens in the S/M photographs. In the photograph of Bob, however, Bob stares out at the viewer in a passive way, revealing nothing of his own personality, directed by the photographer, portrayed like a trophy. I believe this isolation, this objectivity becomes one of the undeniable criticisms of most of Mapplethorpe’s later photographs of the body – they reveal nothing but the clarity of perfect formalised beauty and aesthetic design, sometimes fragmented into surfaces. Mapplethorpe liked to view the body as though cut up into pieces, into different libidinal zones, much as in the reclaimed artefacts of classical sculpture. The viewer is seduced by the sensuous nature of the bodies surfaces, the body objectified for the viewers pleasure. The photographs reveal very little of the inner self of the person being photographed. This surface quality can also be seen in earlier work such as the 1976 photograph of bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger (1976, below).

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, c. 1480 - 1556/1557) 'Young Man Before a White Curtain' c. 1506/1508

 

Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, c. 1480 – 1556/1557)
Young Man Before a White Curtain
c. 1506/1508
Oil on canvas

Lotto, Lorenzo. Young Man Before a White Curtain, Oil on Canvas. c. 1506/1508, in Schneider, Norbert. The Art of the Portrait. Koln: Benedikt Taschen, 1994, p. 66.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' 1976

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Arnold Schwarzenegger
1976
Gelatin silver print

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1976, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 139.

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971) 'A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C.' 1968

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

Arbus, Diane. A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968, 1968, in An Aperture Monograph. Diane Arbus. New York: Millerton, 1972.

 

 

In the photograph Schwarzenegger is placed on bare floorboards with a heavy curtain pulled back to reveal a white wall. We can see connections to an oil painting by the Italian Lorenzo Lotto. According to Norbert Schneider in his book The Art of the Portrait the curtain motif is adapted from devotional painting and was used as a symbolic, majestical backdrop for saints.18 The curtain may be seen as a ‘velum’ to veil whatever was behind it, or by an act of ‘re-velatio’, or pulling aside of the curtain, reveal what is behind. In both the painting and the photograph very little is revealed about the person’s inner self, despite the fact that in Mapplethorpe’s photograph the curtain has been tied back. Schwarzenegger stands before a barren white wall, on bare floorboards. The photograph reveals nothing about his inner self or his state of mind; it is a barren landscape. Nothing is revealed about his personality or identity save that he is a bodybuilder with a body made up of large muscles that has been posed for the camera; his facial expression and look are blank much like the wall behind him. The body becomes a marketable product, the polished surface fetishised in its perfection.

Compare this photograph with the A naked man being a woman, N.Y.C. 1968, by Diane Arbus taken six years earlier (above). Again a figure stands before parted curtains in a room. Here we see an androgynous figure of a man being a woman surrounded by the physical evidence of his/her existence. The body is not muscular but of a ‘natural’ type, one leg slightly bent in quite a feminine gesture, a hand on the hip. Behind the figure is a bed, covered in a blanket. On the chair in front of the curtains and on the bed behind lies discarded clothing and the detritus of human existence. We can also see a suitcase behind the chair leg, an open beer or soft drink can on the floor and what looks like an electrical heater behind the figures legs. We are made aware we are looking at the persons place of living, of sleeping, of the bed where the person sleeps and possibly has sex. Framed by the open curtains the painted face with the plucked eyebrows stares back at us with a much more engaging openness, the body placed within the context of its lived surroundings, unlike the photograph of Schwarzenegger. Much is revealed about the psychological state of the owner and how he lives and what he likes to do. The black and white shading behind the curtains reveals the yin/yang dichotomy, the opposite and the same of his personality far better than the blank white wall that stands behind Mapplethorpe’s portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Arthur Tress (American, b. 1940) 'Superman Fantasy' 1977

 

Arthur Tress (American, b. 1940)
Superman Fantasy
1977
Gelatin silver print

Arthur Tress. Superman Fantasy, 1977, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 143.

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955) 'Image No. 9 from an Untitled Sequence 1977' 1977

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Image No.9 from an Untitled Sequence 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print

Henson, Bill. Image No.9 from an Untitled sequence 1977, 1977, in Henson, Bill. Bill Henson: Photographs 1974-1984. (exhibition catalogue). Melbourne: Deutscher Fine Art, 1989.

 

 

Arthur Tress, Bill Henson and Bruce Weber

Arthur Tress was not a photographer that pandered to the emerging “lifestyle” cult of gay masculinity that was beginning to formulate towards the end of the 1970’s and the early 1980’s. Borrowing elements from both a ‘camp’ aesthetic and Surrealism, his images from this time parodied the inner identity of gay men, prodding and poking beneath the surface of both the gay male psyche and their fantasies. In the 1977 image Superman Fantasy (above), Tress conveys the desire of some gay men for the ‘ideal’ of the superhero, powerful, with muscular body and large penis. But the desiree has a ‘natural’ body and it is his penis that projects between the Superman’s thighs. Superman is only a fantasy, a cut out figure with no relief, and Tress pokes fun at gay men who desire heroic masculine body images to reinforce their own sense masculinity.

At the same time in Australia there emerged the work of the photographer Bill Henson. Again, he did not use stereotypical masculine body images. In an early 1977 sequence of his work (above), we see a young man who looks emaciated (almost like a living skeleton) at rest, a moment of stasis while apparently in the act of masturbating. Here Henson links the sexual act (although never seen in the photographs) with death. Visually Henson represents Georges Bataille’s idea that the ecstasy of an orgasm is like the oblivion of death. The body in sex uses power as part of its attraction and the ultimate expression of power is death; this sequence of photographs links the two ideas together visually. With the explicit medical link between sex and death because of the HIV/AIDS virus these photographs have a powerful resonance within a contemporary social context, the emaciated body now associated in people’s minds with a person dying from AIDS.

Other photographers, notably Bruce Weber, confirmed the constructed ‘ideal’ of the commodified masculine body. Body became product, became part of an overall purchased “lifestyle,” chic, beautiful and available if you have enough money. Working mainly as a fashion photographer with an aspiration to high art, Weber paraded a plethora of stunning white, buff, muscular males before his lens. Advertising companies, such as Calvin Klein swooped on this image of perfect male flesh and played with the ambiguous homo-erotic possibilities inherent within the images. Gay men fell for what they saw as the epitome of ‘masculinity’, a reflection of their own “straight-acting” masculinity. These photographs, with a genetic lineage dating from Sansone and the photographs of sportsmen by German photographer Leni Riefenstahl in the 1930’s, are almost utopian in their aesthetic idealisation of the body.

In his personal work, examples of which can be seen below, Bruce Weber maintains his interest in the perfection of the male form. These men are just All American Jocks, supposedly your everyday boy next door, possessing no sexuality other than a placid, flaccid non-threatening penis, no messy secretions or interactions being attached to the bodies at all. There is no hint of disease or dis-ease among these images or models, even though AIDS was emerging at this time as a major killer of gay men. Perhaps even the possibility of homo/sexuality/identity is denied in the perfection of their form placed, like the Mapplethorpe photograph of Schwarzenegger, against a non-descriptive background, a context-less body in a context-less photograph.

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946) 'Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer' 1983

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946)
Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer
1983
Gelatin silver print

Weber, Bruce. Dan Harvey, New York Jets Trainer, 1983, 1983, in Cheim, John. Bruce Weber. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988.

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946) 'Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara California' 1987

 

Bruce Weber (American, b. 1946)
Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara California
1987
Gelatin silver print

Weber, Bruce. Paul Wadina, Santa Barbara, California, 1987, 1987, in Cheim, John. Bruce Weber. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988.

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Fred with Tires' 1984

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Fred with Tires
1984
Gelatin silver print
24 × 20 in (61 × 50.8cm)

Ritts, Herb. Fred with Tires, 1984, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 195.

 

 

Herb Ritts, Queer Press, Queer body

Fred with Tires (1984, above) became possibly the archetypal photograph of the male body in the 1980’s and made the world-wide reputation of its commercial photographer, Herb Ritts. Gay men flocked to buy it, including myself. I was drawn by the powerful, perfectly sculpted body, the butchness of his job, the dirty trousers, the boots and the body placed within the social context. At the time I realised that the image of this man was a constructed fantasy, ie., not the ‘real’ thing, and this feeling of having been deceived has grown ever since. His hair is teased up and beautifully styled, the grease is applied to his body just so, his body twisted to just the right degree to accentuate the muscles of the stomach and around the pelvis. You can just imagine the stylist standing off camera ready to readjust the hair if necessary, the assistants with their reflectors playing more light onto the body. This/he is the seduction of a marketable homoeroticsm, the selling of an image as sex, almost camp in its overt appeal to gay archetypal stereotypes. Herb Ritts, whether in his commercial work or in his personal images such as those of the gay bodybuilders Bob Paris and Rod Jackson, has helped increase the acceptance of the openly homo-erotic photograph in a wider sphere but this has been possible only with an increased acceptance of homosexual visibility within the general population. Openly gay bodies such as that of Australian rugby league star Ian Roberts or American diver Greg Luganis can become heroes and role models to young gay men coming out of the closet for the first time, visible evidence that gay men are everywhere in every walk of life. This is great because young gay men do need gay role models to look up to but the bodies they possess only conform to the one type, that of the muscular mesomorph and this reinforces the ideal of a traditional virile masculinity. Yes, the guy in the shower next to you might be a poofter, might be queer for heavens sake, but my God, what a body he’s got!

Herb Ritts photographs are still based on the traditional physique magazine style of the 1950’s as can be seen from the examples below. He also borrows heavily from the work of George Platt Lynes and the idealised perfection of Mapplethorpe. The bodies he uses construct themselves (through going to the gym) as the ‘ideal’ of what men should look like. Seduced by the perfection of his bodies gay men have rushed to the gym since the early 1980’s in an attempt to emulate the ideal that Ritts proposes, to belong to the ‘in’ crowd, to have “the look”. (This idealisation continues to this day in 2022).

From different cultures around the world other artists who are gay have also succumbed to the heroic musculature that is the modern day epitome of the representation of gay masculinity. Although he denies any linkage to the work of ‘Tom of Finland’, Sadao Hasegawa portrays the body as a demigod using traditional Japanese and Western iconography to emphasise his themes of homosexual bondage and ritual (see below). The body in his Shunga (Japanese erotic) paintings and drawings, as in most art and images of the muscular male, becomes a phallus, the armoured body being a metaphor for the hidden power of the penis, signifying the power of mesomorphic men over women and ‘other’ not so well endowed men.

 

Bob Delmonteque (American) 'Glenn Bishop' 1950s

 

Bob Delmonteque (American)
Glenn Bishop
1950s
Gelatin silver print

Delmonteque, Bob. Glenn Bishop, 1950s, in Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography. Vol. 1. Man’s World Publishing Company. Chesham: The Carlton Press, Nd, p. 8.

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles
1987
Gelatin silver print

Ritts, Herb. Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles, 1987, in Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, p. 194.

 

Sadao Hasegawa (Japanese, 1945-1999) 'Untitled' 1990

 

Sadao Hasegawa (Japanese, 1945-1999)
Untitled
1990

Hasegawa, Sadao. Untitled, 1990, in Blue Magazine. Sydney: Studio Magazines, April 1997, p. 50.

 

 

But there are still other artists who are gay who challenge the orthodoxy of such stereotypical images, using as their springboard the ‘sensibility’ of queer theory, a theory that critiques perspectives of social and cultural ‘normality’. With the explosion of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the mid 1980’s, numerous artists started to address issues of the body: isolation, disease, death, beauty, gay sex, friendship between men, the inscription of the bodies surface, and the place of gay men in the world in a critical and valuable way. Ted Gott, commenting on Lex Middleton’s 1992 image Gay Beauty Myth (below) in the book Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS observes that the image,

“… reconsiders Bruce Weber’s luscious photography of the naked male body for Calvin Klein’s celebrated underwear advertising campaigns of the early 1980s. The proliferation of Weber / Klein glistening pectorals and smouldering body tone across the billboards of the United States was reaching its crescendo at the same time as the gay male ‘body’ came under threat from a ‘new’ disease not yet identified as HIV/AIDS. In opposing the rippling musculature and perfect visage of an athlete with the fragmented image of a Calvin Klein Y-fronted ‘ordinary’ man, Middleton questions the ‘gay beauty myth’, both as it touches gay men who do not fit the ‘look’ that advertising has decreed applicable to their sexuality, and from the projected perspective of HIV positive gay men who face the reality of the daily decay of their bodies.”19

.
Other artists, such as David McDiarmid in his celebrated series of safe sex posters for the AIDS Council of New South Wales (below)) critique the body as site for libidinal and deviant pleasures for both positive and negative gay men as long as this is always undertaken safely. In the example from the series “Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time,” 1992, we see a brightly coloured body, both positive and negative, filled with parties, drugs and alcohol, spreading the arse cheeks to make the arsehole the site of gay male desire. Note however, that the body still has huge arms, strong legs, and a massive back redolent of the desire of gay men for the muscular mesomorphic body image.

 

Lex Middleton. 'Gay Beauty Myth' 1992

 

Lex Middleton (Australian)
Gay Beauty Myth
1992
Gelatin silver photographs

 

David McDiarmid (Australian, 1952-1995) 'Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don't. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time!' 1992

 

David McDiarmid (Australian, 1952-1995)
Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time!
1992
Colour offset print on paper
67.1 x 44.5cm

AIDS Council of New South Wales / McDiarmid, David (designer). Some of Us Get Out of It, Some of Us Don’t. All of Us Fuck With a Condom, Every Time! 1992, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 154.

 

Brenton Heath-Kerr (Australian, 1962-1995) 'Homosapien' 1994

 

Brenton Heath-Kerr (Australian, 1962-1995)
Homosapien
1994
Laminated photomechanical reproductions and cloth

Heath-Kerr, Brenton. “Homosapien,” 1994, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 75.

 

 

More revealing (literally) was the work and performance art of Brenton Heath-Kerr. Growing out of his involvement in the dance party scene in Sydney, Australia in 1991, Heath-Kerr’s combination of costume and photography made his creations come to life, and he sought to critique the narcissistic elements of this gay dance culture, such as the Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball parties. Later work included the figure Homosapiens (1994, above) which observes the workings of the body laid bare by the ravages of HIV/AIDS and comments on the politics of governments who control funding for drugs to treat those who are infected.

Californian photographer Albert J. Winn, in his series My Life until Now (1993, below) does not seek to elicit sympathy for his incurable disease, but positions his having the disease as only a small part of his overall personality and life. Other photographs in the series feature pictures of his lover, his home, old family photographs, and texts reflecting on his childhood, sexuality, and religion. As Albert J. Winn comments,

“The pictures from My Life Until Now are a progression of thinking about identity. Now I am a gay man, a gay man with AIDS, a Jew, a lover, a person who has books on the shelf, etc., not just another naked gay man with another naked gay man, and I tried to load the photograph(s) with information. I feel I am determining my identity by making the choice to show all this stuff.”20

.
Personally I believe that integrating your sexuality into your overall identity is the last, most important part of ‘coming out’ as a gay man, and this phenomenon is what Albert J. Winn, in his own way, is commenting on.

One of my favourite artists, now dead, who just happened to be gay and critiqued the social landscape was named David Wojnarowicz. Using an eclectic mix of black and white and colour photography (mainly 35mm), drawing, painting, collage, documenting of performances and sculpture, Wojnarowicz created a commentary on his world, the injustices, the sex, the politics, the brutality, the environments, and the people who inhabited them to name just a little of his subject matter. The Untitled 1988-1989 image from the Sex Series (below) is not a collage but a photomontage, two colour slides reverse printed onto black and white paper to make the negative image. Images from the series feature text, babies, all manner of different sexual persuasions, tornadoes, trains, ships, war images, and cells. Wojnarowicz himself states that,

“By mixing variation of sexual expressions there is an attempt to dismantle the structures formed by category; all are affected by laws and policies. The spherical structures embedded in the series are about examination and or surveillance. Looking through a microscope or looking through a telescope or the monitoring that takes place in looking through the lens of a set of binoculars. Its all about oppression and suppression.”

.
Oppression and suppression are the continuing themes in Wojnarowicz’s 1989 image, Bad Moon Rising (below). Here the wounded body of St. Sebastian, a recurring figure in gay iconography, has been impaled not just by arrows but by a tree, the mythological ‘tree of life’ growing up/down, from/into the ‘earth’ of money, the politics of consumerism and the illness of consumption. Again, in the small vignettes we observe the home, the sex, time, cells and their surveillance.

 

Albert J Winn (American, 1947-2014) 'Drug Related Skin Rashes' 1993

 

Albert J Winn (American, 1947-2014)
Drug Related Skin Rashes
1993
Silver gelatin photograph

Winn, Albert J. Drug Related Skin Rashes, from the series My Life Until Now, 1993, in Gott, Ted (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA, 1994, p. 224.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled' 1989 From the 'Sex Series (For Marion Scemama)'

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled
1989
From the Sex Series

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled' 1989 From the 'Sex Series (For Marion Scemama)'

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled
1989
From the Sex Series

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Bad Moon Rising' 1989

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Bad Moon Rising
1989
Black and white photographs, acrylic, string, and collage on Masonite

Wojnarowicz, David. Bad Moon Rising, 1989, in Harris, Melissa. Brushfires in the Social Landscape. New York: Aperture Publications, 1994, p. 39.

 

 

And so it goes…

Meanwhile in Australia, the burgeoning cult of body worship was being fuelled by the more traditional homo-erotic photographs from America. This iconography was assimilated by local commercial photographers. They played with the traditions of surf, sand, sun and sea for which Australia is renowned and Dennis Maloney, in particular, concentrated his attention on the surf lifesavers that patrolled the beach during surf carnivals. He photographed the guys with their well built tanned bodies, good looks, swimming costumes pulled up between buttocks, and let the homosexual market for such images do the rest. He also photographed what I would classify as soft-core porn images such as the Untitled 1990 image from the series Sons of Beaches (below), the idyllic man in his reverie, wet bathing costume moulded to the curve of his buttocks, legs spread invitingly in a suggestive homo-erotic sexual position.

This trend of using images of the muscular, smooth male body for both commercial purposes and as the ‘ideal’ of what a gay man should look like continues unabated to this day. Pick up any local gay newspaper or magazine and they are full of adverts for chat lines or escorts that feature this body type. The news photographs from around the clubs also feature nearly naked well built men with their buffed torsos.

Most images on the Internet also feature this particular body type (below), whether they belong to commercial sites or as the images that are chosen, desired and lusted after in the galleries of private home pages. The most alternative photographs of the male body I have found on the Internet occur when they are the personal photographs of their authors, when they picture themselves (below). These images exhibit a massive variety in the shape, size, hirsuteness and colour of gay men, most of whom don’t come anywhere near to the supposed ‘ideal’. And what of the future for the male body? Perhaps you would like to read the Future Press chapter in the CD ROM to get a few ideas.

Dr Marcus Bunyan 2001

 

Denis Maloney (Australian) 'Untitled' c. 1990

 

Denis Maloney (Australian)
Untitled
c. 1990
From the series Sons of Beaches
Colour photograph

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled' 1998

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
1998
Image from a commercial Internet web page

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled' 1998

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled
1998
Image from a commercial Internet web page

 

 

Footnotes

1/ Anonymous (French). “Male Nude Study.” Daguerreotype, c. 1843, in Ewing, William. The Body. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994, p. 65. Courtesy: Stefan Richter, Reutlingen, Germany.

2/ “One of the things that interests me is the problem of friendship … You can find, from the sixteenth century on, texts explicitly criticize friendship as something dangerous. The army, bureaucracy, administration, universities, schools, et cetera – in the modern senses of these words – cannot function with such intense friendships. I think there can be seen a very strong attempt in all these institutions to diminish, or minimize, the affectional relations … One of my hypotheses … is that homosexuality became a problem – that is, sex between men became a problem – in the eighteenth century. We see the rise of it as a problem with the police, within the justice system, and so on. I think the reason it appears as a problem, as a social issue, at this time is that friendship has disappeared. As long as friendship was something important, was socially accepted, nobody realized men had sex together. You couldn’t say that men didn’t have sex together – it just didn’t matter … Once friendship disappeared as a culturally accepted relation, the issue arose, “What is going on between men?” And that’s when the problem appears … I’m sure I’m right, that the disappearance of friendship as a social relation and the declaration of homosexuality as a social / political / medical problem are the same process.” (My emphasis).
Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, pp. 32-34.

3/ The formation of ‘The Cult of Muscularity’ in the last decade of the 19th century was a reaction to the perceived effeminisation of heterosexual masculinity. The position of the active, heroic hetero-male was under attack from the passivity of industrialisation, from the expansion of women’s rights and their ability to become breadwinners, and through the naming of deviant sexualities that were seen as a threat to the stability of society. By naming deviant sexualities they became visible to the general public for the fist time, creating apprehension in the minds of men gazing upon the bodies of other men lest they be thought of as ‘pansies’… Muscles became the sign of heterosexual power, prowess, and virility. A man had control over his body and his physical world. His appearance affected how he interacted with this world, how he saw himself, and was seen by others, and how closely he matched the male physical ‘ideal’ impacted on his own levels of self-esteem. The gymnasium became a meeting point for exercise, for health, for male bonding, and to show off your undoubted ‘masculinity’. Sporting and war heroes became national icons. Muscle proved the ‘masculinity’ of men, fit for power, fit to dominate women and less powerful men. By the 1950s this masculine identity construction was well established in America and many gay men sought to hid their perceived feminine traits, their (homo)sexuality from public view for fear of persecution.
Bunyan, Marcus. “Bench Press,” in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.

4/ “The fear that swept gay men at the height of the McCarthy Era cannot be underestimated. It exploited a prevailing fear in American culture at large of effeminate men and instilled it further, even among gay men. Not only would men, gay and straight, not want to appear effeminate lest someone think they were homosexual, but the profusely masculine pose that straight men adopted in the 1950s had a profound effect on gay men that lasted for generations. Homosexuals are, after all, attracted to men, and if men in a given culture are assuming an even more masculine appearance than previously, thus redefining once again what it means to be a man, homosexuals will perhaps by default become more attracted to that more masculine appearance … The effeminate homosexual continued to become at best someone to avoid, even among a great many gay men themselves.”
Signorile, Michelangelo. Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, pp. 46-47 quoted in Bunyan, Marcus. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. Melbourne: RMIT University, 2000. Femi-nancy Press chapter, p. 1.

5/ Anonymous. “Otto Arco and Adrian Deraiz.” Nd in Berry, Mark. Physical Improvement. Vol. II. Philadelphia: Milo Publishing Company, 1930, p. 39.

6/ This sculpture tightly adheres to the many criteria of the Nazi aesthetic and therefore contains the visual and thematic aspects of the Nazi aesthetic. The sculpture depicts two men in front, both in an athletic pose. This sculpture depicts the Nazi ideals of masculinity and virility. It does this by depicting an extremely athletic, in-shape fighter. The static image idolized the idealized athletic form as a goal for the rest of the nation. The figure furthers the Nazi state’s anti-Bolshevist stance as it depicts a Nazi ideal of a strong and vigorous German man, in contrast to the degraded figures often portrayed in Bolshevik art, suffering as victims of class oppression.
Anonymous. “The Nazi Aesthetic: A Vehicle of Nazi Values,” on the Grappling with the Nazi Past website May 8, 2019 [Online] Cited 10/09/2022

7/ Leddick, David. Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes 1935-1955. New York: Universe Publishing, 1997, p. 21.

8/ Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bullfinch Press, 1993, Plate 78.

9/ Whole series of studio shots of male butt and arsehole in different positions. Quite explicit. Some close-up, others full body shots with legs in the air. Not his best work but interesting for its era. Very sexually anal or anally sexual! As in GPL’s work, very about form as well. In one photograph a guy spreads his cheeks while bending over from the waist, in another photograph he spreads his cheeks while standing slightly bent forward. These are the most explicit of GPL’s images in the Collection that I saw, though perhaps not the most successful or interesting photographically. 8″ x 10″ contact print.
See Plate 78 in Kinsey Institute and Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs From the Kinsey Institute. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1993, for an image from this series.

10/ Der Kries. No. 1. Zurich: No Publisher, January, 1952. Homosexual magazine. Typical photographs of the era in this magazine. No frontal nudity even up to the later 1965 editions. Lithe young men, drawings and articles, including one on the Kinsey Report in the 1952 first edition (pp. 6-7). Some of the photographs in Der Kries of young European men are similar to German naturist movement photographs (Cat. No. 52423 – Oct, Nov, Dec 1949. Cat. No. 52452 – May, June 1949 showing 5 nude boys outdoors throwing medicine ball in the air with their arms upraised). Also some photographs are similar to von Gloeden’s Italian peasants (Cat. No. 52424 – July 1952. Cat. No. 52425 – August 1960. Cat. No. 52426 – May, Oct 1956: all 4 photographs). The 1949 photographs are possibly taken from earlier German magazines anyway? Discus, javelin, archer, and shot putter images. Mainly nudes. George Platt Lynes contributed to the magazine under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf.

11/ Image No. 52006. Bruce of Los Angeles. Kinsey Institute acquired 1950. Annotation: Tom Matthews, 24 years old. Older man, dark hair. Big pecs, arms, tanned, hairy arms and chest, looking down and away from camera. Nude, limp cut dick. Sitting on a pedestal which is on a raffia mat. Metal chain wrapped around both wrists which are crossed. Lighting seems to be from 2 sources – high right and mid-left. Unusual in that this physique photograph shows an older, hairy man who is nude.

12/ Bérubé, Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. New York: The Free Press, 1990, pp. 272-273.

13/ Dupain, Max. Max Dupain’s Australia. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking/Penguin Books Australia, 1986, p. 157.

14/ Domenique (ed.,). Art in Physique Photography Vol. 1. (illus. by David Angelo, designed and produced by Lon of New York in London). Worcester Park, England: Man’s World Publishing Company Ltd., 195?

15/ Album 1501: A Study of Sexual Activity Between Males. Los Angeles: Greyhuff Publishing, 1970.
Bodies in this magazine are smooth, young toned men, much as in the early photographs of George Platt Lynes. The perform both oral and anal sex on each other in a lounge room lit by strong lights (shadows on walls). Black and white photographs, well shot, magazine is about 5″ wide and 10″ high, well laid out and printed. The magazine is a thin volume and features just the two models in one sex scene of them undressing each other and then having sex. One man wears a Pepsi-Cola T-shirt at first and he also has tattoos one of which says ‘Cheri’. The photographs almost have a private feel to them.
This is the earliest commercial gay pornography magazine that I have seen that features m2m anal and oral sex and comes after the American Supreme Court ruled on obscenity laws in the late 1960s. Note the progression from physique magazines and models in posing pouches in 1966-1968, then to full erection and stories of anal penetration in Action Line in 1969, to full on photographs of gay sex in this magazine in 1970. Bodies are all smooth, quite solid, toned natural physiques, not as ‘built’ as in earlier physique magazines, but still featuring younger smooth men and not older heavier set men. In their introduction the publishers disclaim any agreement with the content of the magazine and are only publishing it for the freedom of everybody to study the material in the privacy of their own homes. In other words m2m sex is a natural phenomenon and the publication is educational. This was a common ploy in early nudist and pornographic publications to justify the content – to claim that the material was for private educational purposes only.
Marcus Bunyan. “Research Notes on Physique Magazines and Early Gay Pornography Magazines of the 1960s from the Collection at the One Institute / International Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California, 28/08/1999,” in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.

16/ Anonymous quotation in Colt Studios. Olympus from Colt Studios Vol. 1. No 2. Hollywood, California: Colt Studios, 1973, p. 42.

17/ During my research at The One Institute in Los Angeles I investigated the type of body images that appeared in the transitional phase from physique magazines of the mid-late 1960s into the early gay pornography magazines of 1969-1970 in America which occurred after the Supreme Court ruling on obscenity. I wanted to find whether there had been a crossover, a continuation of the muscular mesomorphic body image that was a favourite of the physique photographers into the early pornography magazines. From the evidence of the images in the magazines I would have to say that there was a limited crossover of the bigger muscular bodies but most bodies that appeared in the early gay porn mags were of the youthful, smooth, muscular ephebe-type body image.
Most of the men featured in the early gay pornography magazines and films have bodies that appear to be quite ‘natural’ in their form. Models are mostly young, smooth, quite solid with toned physiques, not as ‘built’ as in the earlier physique magazines but still well put together. Examining the magazines at the One Institute I found that the bodies of older muscular / hairy men were not well represented. Perhaps this was due to the unavailability of the bigger and older bodybuilders to participate in such activity? In the male bodies of the c. late-1970s Super 8 mm pornography films we can observe the desirable image of the smooth youthful ephebe being presented for our erotic pleasure.
Marcus Bunyan. “Gay Male Pornography,” in the ‘In-Press’ chapter in Marcus Bunyan. Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male. RMIT University, Melbourne, 2001.

18/ Schneider, Norbert. The Art of the Portrait. Koln: Benedikt Taschen, 1994, p. 67.

19/ Gott, Ted. “Agony Down Under: Australian Artists Addressing AIDS,” in Gott, Ted. (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), 1994, p. 4.

20/ Winn, Albert J. quoted in Grover, Jan. “OI: Opportunistic Identification, Open Identification in PWA Portraiture,” in Gott, Ted. (ed.,). Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS. Melbourne: Thames and Hudson/NGA (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), 1994, p. 223.

 

 

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09
Oct
22

Exhibition: ‘Spowers & Syme’ at the Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 16th July – 16th October 2022

A National Gallery Touring Exhibition

Curator: Dr Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax, Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery showing photographs of both Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme

 

Installation view of the exhibition Spowers & Syme at the Geelong Art Gallery showing photographs of both Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme (below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

My friend and I travelled down the highway from Melbourne to Geelong especially to see this National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition – and my god, was it worth the journey!

I have always loved woodcuts and the Art Deco era so it was a great pleasure to see the work of two very talented artists from this period, who were “enthusiastic exponents of modern art in Melbourne during the 1930s and ’40s.” Modern art that would have challenged the conservative (male) art conventions of the day, much as modernist photographs by Max Dupain challenged the ongoing power of Pictorialist photography in 1930s Australia.

From viewing the exhibition it would seem to me that Eveline Syme has the sparer, more ascetic aesthetic. Her forms are more graphic, her lines more severe, her spaces more “blocky” (if I can use that word – in other words, more positive and negative space), her colour palette more restrained than in the work of Ethel Spowers. But her work possesses its own charm: a wonderful Japanese inspired landscape such as The factory (1933, below), with its mix of modernism and naturalism; silhouetted blue figures full of dynamism, movement in a swirling circular motif in Skating (1929, below); or the flattened perspective and 3 colour palette of Sydney tram line (1936, below) – all offer their own delicious enjoyment of the urban landscape.

But the star of the show is the work of the astonishing Ethel Spowers. Her work is luminous… containing such romanticism, fun, humour, movement, play, intricate design, bold colours, lyrical graphics… and emotion – that I literally went weak at the knees when viewing these stunningly beautiful art works. There is somethings so joyful about Spowers designs that instantly draws you in, that makes you smile, that made me cry! They really touched my heart…

Even now writing about them, they seem to me like stills from a dream, scenes out of a fairy tale: the pattern of the white gulls obscuring the plough; the rays of sunlight striking the ground behind The lonely farm; the mysterious stillness of The island of the dead; the arching leap over the rope in Fox and geese; the pyramid construction of Football; the delicacy of movement and line in Swings; and the butterfly-like canopies in Wet afternoon. I could go on and on about the joy these works brought me when looking at them, their vivaciousness, their intense, effervescent spirit. If you get a chance before the exhibition closes next weekend in Geelong please go to see them.

As you may have gathered I am totally in love with the work of Ethel Spowers. Thank you, thank you to the artist for making them, and thank you to the energy of the cosmos for allowing me to see them in person!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Geelong Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation images © Marcus Bunyan, Geelong Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia.

 

 

“Is it too great a truism to repeat that the best art is always the child of its own age?”

.
Eveline Syme

 

 

Celebrating the artistic friendship of Melbourne artists Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme, the National Gallery Touring Exhibition Spowers and Syme will present the changing face of interwar Australia through the perspective of two pioneering modern women artists.

The exhibition offers rare insight into the unlikely collaboration between the daughters of rival media families. Studying together in Paris and later with avant-garde printmaker Claude Flight in London, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme returned to the conservative art world of Australia – where they became enthusiastic exponents of modern art in Melbourne during the 1930s and ’40s.

Much-loved for their innovative approach to lino and woodcut techniques, Spowers and Syme showcases their dynamic approach through prints and drawings whose rhythmic patterns reflect the fast pace of the modern world through everyday observations of childhood themes, overseas travel and urban life.

Text from the Geelong Gallery website

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Spowers & Syme at the Geelong Art Gallery
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Photographer unknown. 'Portrait of Miss EL Spowers, a passenger on board the 'Orama'' 19 March 1935 (installation view)

 

Photographer unknown
Portrait of Miss EL Spowers, a passenger on board the ‘Orama’ (installation view)
19 March 1935
Fremantle
Reproduction courtesy of The West Australian, Perth
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Photographer unknown. 'Miss Eveline W. Syme, who is in charge of the library section of the Australian Red Cross Society, is seen displaying a typical parcel of books as sent out to hospitals, convalescent depots etc. This parcel contains about forty units, covering a wide range of literature' 13 May 1943 (installation view)

 

Photographer unknown
Miss Eveline W. Syme, who is in charge of the library section of the Australian Red Cross Society, is seen displaying a typical parcel of books as sent out to hospitals, convalescent depots etc. This parcel contains about forty units, covering a wide range of literature (installation view)
13 May 1943
Melbourne
Reproduction courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The gust of wind' 1931 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The gust of wind (installation view)
1931
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The gust of wind' 1931

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The gust of wind
1931
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Special edition' 1936 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Special edition (installation view)
1936
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Raised in Toorak society, Ethel Spowers was the second daughter of William Spewers, an Aotearoa New Zealand-born journalist and proprietor of The Argus and The Australasian newspapers. The Spowers family lived at Toorak House in St Georges Road. Eveline Syme was the first-born daughter of company director and pastoralist Joseph Syme, who was a partner in competing newspaper The Age until 1891. The Syme family lived at Rotherfield (now Sherwood Hall) in St Kilda. Eveline moved to Toorak in around 1927.

Wall text

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Special edition' 1936 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Special edition
1936
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Melbourne from the river' c. 1924 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Melbourne from the river (installation view)
c. 1924
Melbourne
Woodcut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A sense of place is important to all of us. For Spowers and Syme, Melbourne (Naarm) was their home and held a special place in their hearts. In the 1920s, Melbourne was an important city. Lively and busy, it was also very accessible to the river and beautiful landmarks. The Yarra River (Birrarung) winding gently through the city and the industrial landscape at Yallourn were worthy subjects to focus on. Spowers’ earlier work Melbourne from the river c 1924 (below) was created looking at the river and is framed by spindly trees.

Text from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Melbourne from the river' c. 1924 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Melbourne from the river (installation view)
c. 1924
Melbourne
Woodcut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Melbourne from the river' c. 1924

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Melbourne from the river
c. 1924
Melbourne
Woodcut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Banks of the Yarra' 1935 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Banks of the Yarra (installation view)
1935
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Banks of the Yarra' 1935

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Banks of the Yarra
1935
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The bay' 1932 (installation view)

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The bay' 1932 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The bay (installation views)
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The bay' 1932

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The bay
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977

 

 

Geelong Gallery is delighted to present National Gallery of Australia Touring Exhibition, Spowers & Syme opening on Saturday 16 July 2022.

Celebrating the artistic friendship of Melbourne artists Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme, the Know My Name touring exhibition presents the changing
face of interwar Australia through the perspective of two pioneering women artists.

The National Gallery’s Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings, Dr Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax hopes that Geelong and Victorian audiences will add the
names Spowers and Syme to their knowledge of ground-breaking women artists from the era including Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Dorrit Black and Grace Cossington Smith.

‘Spowers and Syme are often overlooked in Australian art history, yet during the 1930s they were recognised by peers as being among the most progressive artists working in Melbourne.’

‘Exhibiting in Australia and England, they championed key ideas from European modernism such as contemporary art reflecting the pace and vitality of life,’ said Noordhuis-Fairfax.

Much-loved for their dynamic approach to lino and woodcut prints, Spowers & Syme offers rare insights into the creative alliance between the daughters of rival media families from Melbourne-based newspapers The Argus and The Age. After studying art together in Paris and London, Spowers and Syme returned to the conservative art world of Australia where they became enthusiastic exponents of modern art during the 1930s and 1940s.

Geelong Galley Director & CEO, Jason Smith says ‘We look forward to sharing the important works of Spowers and Syme and exploring their contributions further through a number of public and education programs. Spowers & Syme will be further contextualised by modernist works by women artists in our Geelong permanent collection including a major survey of printmaker, Barbara Brash.

Press release from the Geelong Art Gallery

 

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Balloons' c. 1920

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Balloons
c. 1920
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Gift of Chris Montgomery 1993

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The factory' 1933 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The factory (installation view)
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The factory' 1933

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The factory
1933
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Beginners' class' 1956

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Beginners’ class
1956
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1992

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Drawing for the linocut 'School is out'' 1936 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Drawing for the linocut ‘School is out’ (installation view)
1936
Melbourne
Drawing in pen and black ink over pencil
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Gift of Chris Montgomery 1993
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

At the end of 1936 Spowers held her sixth and final solo exhibition. It was a survey of old favourites and new works, spanning a decade of imagination and experimentation. Among the twenty prints and six watercolours shown at Grosvenor Galleries in Sydney were five fresh linocuts: Kites, Football, School is out, Children’s hoops and Special edition. These works were a return to her most treasured themes: children and family.

Wall text

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'School is out' 1936

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
School is out
1936
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

 

Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme captured the joy and dynamism of movement in sport and play. Through colour, pattern and intersecting lines we see the speed and energy of children skipping, running, reaching to catch a ball and the pace of skaters circling the rink in the icy coldness. Who could forget the wonderful feeling of swinging as high as possible, looking down at the world?

Spowers’ images of children playing are reminiscent of her own childhood and have a whimsical charm about them. They capture the sense of wonder and curiosity seen in young children.

Linoleum (lino) was a floor covering that was invented in 1860. Imaginative artists discovered how effective it was for creating prints. With the right tools, it was easy to carve an image into it and make prints using coloured inks on the exposed surface.

Anonymous text. “Play and Games – Spowers & Syme: Primary School Learning Resource,” on the National Gallery of Australia website Nd [Online] Cited 29/08/2022

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The bamboo blind' 1926

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The bamboo blind
1926
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

 

Ethel Louise Spowers (1890-1947), painter and printmaker, was born on 11 July 1890 at South Yarra, Melbourne, second of six children of William George Lucas Spowers, a newspaper proprietor from New Zealand, and his London-born wife Annie Christina, née Westgarth. Allan Spowers was her only brother. She was educated at the Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Melbourne, and was a prefect in 1908. Wealthy and cultured, her family owned a mansion in St Georges Road, Toorak. Ethel continued to live there as an adult and maintained a studio above the stables.

After briefly attending art school in Paris, Miss Spowers undertook (1911-1917) the full course in drawing and painting at Melbourne’s National Gallery schools. Her first solo exhibition, held in 1920 at the Decoration Galleries in the city, showed fairy-tale drawings influenced by the work of Ida Outhwaite. In 1921-1924 Spowers worked and studied abroad, at the Regent Street Polytechnic, London, and the Académie Ranson, Paris. She exhibited (1921) with fellow Australian artist Mary Reynolds at the Macrae Gallery, London. Two further solo shows (1925 and 1927) at the New Gallery, Melbourne, confirmed her reputation as an illustrator of fairy tales, though by then she was also producing woodcuts and linocuts inspired by Japanese art and covering a broader range of subjects.

A dramatic change in Spowers’ style occurred in 1929 when she studied under Claude Flight (the leading exponent of the modernist linocut) at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, London. Her close friend Eveline Syme joined her there. Following further classes in 1931, during which Spowers absorbed modernist ideas of rhythmic design and composition from the principal Iain Macnab, she published an account of the Grosvenor School in the Recorder (Melbourne, 1932). In the 1930s her linocuts attracted critical attention for their bold, simplified forms, rhythmic sense of movement, distinctive use of colour and humorous observation of everyday life, particularly the world of children. They were regularly shown at the Redfern Gallery, London. The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum purchased a number of her linocuts.

Stimulated by Flight’s proselytising zeal for the medium, Spowers organised in 1930 an exhibition of linocuts by Australian artists, among them Syme and Dorrit Black, at Everyman’s Library and Bookshop, Melbourne. A founding member (1932-1938) of George Bell‘s Contemporary Group, Spowers defended the modernist movement against its detractors. In an article in the Australasian on 26 April 1930 she called on ‘all lovers of art to be tolerant to new ideas, and not to condemn without understanding’.

Frances Derham remembered Spowers as being ‘tall, slender and graceful’, with ‘a small head, dark hair and grey eyes’. A rare photograph of Spowers, published in the Bulletin (3 September 1925), revealed her fashionable appearance and reflective character. In the late 1930s she stopped practising as an artist due to ill health, but continued her voluntary work at the Children’s Hospital. She died of cancer on 5 May 1947 in East Melbourne and was buried with Anglican rites in Fawkner cemetery. Although she had destroyed many of her paintings in a bonfire, a memorial exhibition of her watercolours, line-drawings, wood-engravings and colour linocuts was held at George’s Gallery, Melbourne, in 1948. Her prints are held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, State galleries in Melbourne and Sydney, and the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria.

Stephen Coppel. “Spowers, Ethel Louise (1890-1947),” in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16 , 2002, online in 2006 [Online] Cited 26/08/2022

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The Yarra at Warrandyte' 1931 (installation view)

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The Yarra at Warrandyte' 1931 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The Yarra at Warrandyte (installation views)
1931
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'The Yarra at Warrandyte' 1931

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
The Yarra at Warrandyte
1931
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977

 

 

Eveline Winifred Syme (1888-1961), painter and printmaker, was born on 26 October 1888 at Thames Ditton, Surrey, England, daughter of Joseph Cowen Syme, newspaper proprietor, and his wife Laura, née Blair. Ebenezer Syme was her grandfather. Eveline was raised in the family mansion at St Kilda, Melbourne. After leaving the Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Melbourne, she voyaged to England and studied classics in 1907-1910 at Newnham College, Cambridge (B.A., M.A., 1930). Because the University of Cambridge did not then award degrees to women, she applied to the University of Melbourne for accreditation, but was only granted admission to third-year classics. She chose instead to complete a diploma of education (1914).

Syme’s artistic career was enhanced by her close friendship with Ethel Spowers. She studied painting at art schools in Paris in the early 1920s, notably under Maurice Denis and André Lhote, and held a solo exhibition, mainly of watercolours, at Queen’s Hall, Melbourne, in 1925. Her one-woman shows, at the Athenaeum Gallery (1928) and Everyman’s Library and Bookshop (1931), included linocuts and wood-engravings. While many of her watercolours and prints drew on her travels through England, Provence, France, and Tuscany, Italy, she also responded to the Australian landscape, particularly the countryside around Melbourne and Sydney, and at Port Arthur, Tasmania. Syme’s chance discovery of Claude Flight’s textbook, Lino-Cuts (London, 1927), inspired her to enrol (with Spowers) in his classes at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, London, in January 1929. In keeping with Flight’s modernist conception of the linocut, she began to produce prints incorporating bold colour and rhythmic design.

Returning to Melbourne in 1929 with an exhibition of contemporary wood-engravings from the Redfern Gallery, London, Syme became a cautious advocate of modern art. She published a perceptive account of Flight and his teaching in the Recorder (1929) and spoke on the radio about wood-engraving; she also wrote a pioneering essay on women artists in Victoria from 1857, which was published in the Centenary Gift Book (1934), edited by Frances Fraser and Nettie Palmer. Syme was a founding member (1932-1938) of George Bell‘s Contemporary Group. She regularly exhibited with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors and with the Independent Group of Artists. Her linocuts, perhaps her most significant achievement, owed much to her collaboration with Spowers.

During the mid-1930s Syme was prominent in moves to establish a women’s residential college at the University of Melbourne. In 1936, as vice-president of the appeal committee, she donated the proceeds of her print retrospective (held at the gallery of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria) to the building fund. A foundation member (1936-1961) of the council of University Women’s College, she served as its president (1940-1947) and as a member of its finance committee. She was appointed to the first council of the National Gallery Society of Victoria in 1947 and sat on its executive-committee in 1948-1953. In addition, she was a member (1919) and president (1950-1951) of the Lyceum Club.

A tall, elegant and reserved woman, Syme had a ‘crisp, quick voice’ and a ‘rather abrupt manner’. She died on 6 June 1961 at Richmond and was buried with Presbyterian forms in Brighton cemetery. In her will she left her books and £5000 to University Women’s College. Edith Alsop’s portrait (1932) of Syme is held by University College. Syme’s work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, State galleries in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, and the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria.

Stephen Coppel. “Syme, Eveline Winifred (1888-1961),” in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16 , 2002, online in 2006 [Online] Cited 26/08/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Spowers & Syme' at the Geelong Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Spowers & Syme at the Geelong Art Gallery showing at top left, Spowers The timber crane (1926, below); at top right, Spowers The plough (1928, below); at bottom left, Spowers The works, Yallourn (1933, below); and at bottom right, Spowers The lonely farm (1933, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The timber crane' 1926 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The timber crane (installation view)
1926
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The plough' 1928 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The plough (installation view)
1928
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The plough' 1928

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The plough
1928
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The works, Yallourn' 1933

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The works, Yallourn
1933
Linocut
15.7 x 34.8cm (printed image)
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Bulla Bridge' 1934

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Bulla Bridge
1934
Wood engraving
10.1 x 14.7cm (printed image)
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The lonely farm' 1933 (installation view)

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The lonely farm' 1933 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The lonely farm (installation views)
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Harvest' 1932 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Harvest (installation view)
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Harvest' 1932

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Harvest
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The joke' 1932 (installation view)

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The joke' 1932 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The joke (installation views)
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The joke' 1932

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The joke
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The island of the dead' 1927 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The island of the dead (installation view)
1927
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from seven blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1995
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In January 1927 Spowers and Syme holidayed in Iutruwita / Tasmania. After they visited the penal settlement at Port Arthur, Spowers produced this view of the nearby cemetery of Point Puer. Following this trip, Syme made a monochrome wood-engraving, The ruins, Port Arthur c. 1927

Wall text

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The island of the dead' 1927

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The island of the dead
1927
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from seven blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1995

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Skating' 1929 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Skating (installation view)
1929
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from two blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

When Syme joined Spowers at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in January 1929 she made the two-block linocut Skating, which summarises Claude Flight’s teachings on how a composition ‘builds into a geometrical pattern of opposing rhythms’. Her design is simplified, using the repetition of intersecting lines and curves to suggest action. Although the skaters are frozen mid-turn, the print is filled with light and movement, with Syme’s humorous suggestion of novice efforts captured in awkwardly angled arms and legs.

Wall text

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Skating' 1929

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Skating
1929
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from two blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Fox and geese' 1933 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Fox and geese (installation view)
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Fox and geese' 1933

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Fox and geese
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Football' 1936 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Football (installation view)
1936
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1982
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Tug of war' 1933 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Tug of war (installation view)
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Tug of war' 1933

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Tug of war
1933
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

 

Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme were lifelong friends who inspired and encouraged each another in their artistic pursuits. They were pioneers in printmaking and modern art and their careers reflected the changing circumstances of women after World War 1. Spowers and Syme were among a core group of progressive Australian artists who travelled widely and studied with avant-garde artists. They were at the forefront of Modernism in Australia.

Both women grew up in Melbourne in very comfortable circumstances. Their fathers ran rival newspapers, so their families had many common interests. Spowers’ father was involved with The Argus and The Australasian, while Syme’s father helped run The Age. Both families were dedicated to many causes and generous in their efforts to help others. They also supported war efforts and the Red Cross.

Spowers was the second child of six siblings and her home life was filled with rich and varied creative experiences. Her family lived in a large home in inner Melbourne called Toorak House, a graceful mansion with large gardens to play in and explore. Syme was also one of six siblings and lived nearby in a large house in St Kilda called Rotherfield.

Spowers and Syme studied and travelled together in Australia and overseas. Both were inspired by the artist Claude Flight who taught them at the Grosvenor School in London. He encouraged his students to capture the joy of movement through colour and rhythmic line and the new method of colour linocut printing. Spowers and Syme became strong supporters of being brave as artists, prepared to experiment and promote new ways of doing and seeing.

Throughout their lives the two friends advocated for important causes. Spowers’ focus was always on the welfare of children through her involvement in kindergarten education and volunteering at the local children’s hospital. Syme was particularly dedicated to the advancement of women’s university education.

Anonymous text. “About the Artists – Spowers & Syme: Primary School Learning Resource,” on the National Gallery of Australia website Nd [Online] Cited 29/09/2022

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'San Domenico, Siena' 1931 (installation view)

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'San Domenico, Siena' 1931 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
San Domenico, Siena (installation view)
1931
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1977
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

An inveterate traveller, Syme produced drawings and watercolours of landscape views from her trips around Victoria, her voyages to England via Colombo, and her travels through Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and the United States of America. In addition to exhibiting her watercolours, Syme often used these compositions as the basis for subsequent prints and oil paintings.

Wall text

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Hong Kong harbour' 1934 (installation view)

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Hong Kong harbour' 1934 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Hong Kong harbour (installation views)
1934
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Swings' 1932 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Swings (installation view)
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Swings' 1932

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Swings
1932
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Sydney tram line' 1936 (installation view)

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Sydney tram line' 1936 (installation view)

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Sydney tram line (installation views)
1936
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Powers and Syme were associated with numerous art and social group, which established intersecting circles of connection and opportunity in Melbourne and Sydney. During the 1930s they both exhibited in Sydney with other progressive artists at Dorrit Black’s Modern Art Centre and with the Contemporary Group co-founded by Thea Proctor. This print is based on an earlier watercolour by Syme, drawn after staying with Spowers’ sister at Double Bay in 1932.

Wall text

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Sydney tram line' 1936

 

Eveline Syme (Australian, 1888-1961)
Sydney tram line
1936
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1979
© Estate of Eveline Syme

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Still life' 1925 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Still life (installation view)
1925
Melbourne
Wood-engraving, printed in black ink, from one block
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1981
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The noisy parrot' 1926 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The noisy parrot (installation view)
1926
Melbourne
Woodcut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 2015
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The noisy parrot' 1926

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The noisy parrot
1926
Melbourne
Woodcut, printed in colour inks in the Japanese manner, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 2015

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Wet afternoon' 1930 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Wet afternoon (installation view)
1930
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1983
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In July 1930 Claude Flight included this print in British lino-cuts, the second annual exhibition held at the Redfern Gallery in London. Impressions were acquired by the Victoria & Albert museum and the British Museum. Wet afternoon was exhibited again in September at the annual exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria at Melbourne Town Hall and in the first exhibition of linocuts in Australia held in December at Everyman’s Lending Library in the centre of avant-garde Melbourne.

Wall text

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Wet afternoon' 1930

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Wet afternoon
1930
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

 

Prints, pigments & poison

The vibrant works by Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme, printed on smooth Japanese gampi papers from 1927 to 1950, demanded special consideration during conservation preparation from the Spowers & Syme exhibition. Andrea Wise, Senior Conservator, Paper, explains the process and details the green pigment with the toxic backstory. …

The typical palette in Spowers & Syme works feature carbon black, yellow and brown ochres, ultramarine, cobalt and cerulean blues, emerald green and two organic lake pigments – alizarin crimson and a distinct lilac. Lake pigments are made by attaching a dye to a base material such as alumina, making a dyestuff into a workable particulate pigment. This process can also extend more expensive dyestuffs, making them cheaper to use. Bound with oil to create printer’s inks, this limited palette was then overprinted to achieve a wider range of colours.

Emerald green commonly recurs throughout the works. A highly toxic vivid green, invented in the 19th century, it was still commercially available until the early 1960s. Many historical pigments are toxic, based on arsenic, mercury and lead.

Today we are increasingly aware of the health and safety issues related to work of art, but this was not always the case. Emerald green belongs to a group of copper acetoarsenate pigments that were extensively used for many household goods including furniture and wallpapers. A similar pigment, Scheele’s green, was used on the wallpaper in Napoleon’s apartments on St Helena and has been suggested as the cause of his death. Large amounts of arsenic (100 times that of a living person) were found on Napoleon’s hair and scalp after he had died. While poisoning theories still abound, it has been confirmed through other medical cases from the period that arsenic dust and fumes would be circulated in damp Victorian rooms sealed tight against the drafts that were thought to promote ill health.

Anonymous text. “Prints, pigments & poison,” on the National Gallery of Australia website Nov 18, 2021 [Online] Cited 30/08/2022

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Children's Hoops' 1935

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Children’s Hoops
1935
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Bank holiday' 1935 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Bank holiday (installation view)
1935
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from six blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Bank holiday' 1935

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Bank holiday
1935
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'The Junior Red Cross works in every land' 1941 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
The Junior Red Cross works in every land (installation view)
Linocut, printed in colour, from six blocks
Reproduced in Joan and Daryl Lindsay
The story of the Red Cross Melbourne, 1941
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Powers made one final linocut print around 1941 for inclusion in a published history of the Australian Red Cross Society compiled by Joan and Daryl Lindsay. The Spowers family had a long philanthropic connection with this cause, and Eveline Syme became the first chairperson of the Red Cross Society Picture Library. Reproduced as a lithographic illustration, the long narrow composition is based on the picnicking families in Spowers’ earlier linocut Bank holiday 1935 (see above).

Wall text

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) 'Cuthbert and the dogs' c. 1947 (installation view)

 

Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Cuthbert and the dogs (installation view)
c. 1947
Digest Juvenile Productions, Melbourne
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-1930s, Spowers stopped printmaking and began a series of short stories for children. During the last decade of her life, she wrote and illustrated at least seven books. Their charm drew on stories the Spowers siblings wrote together as children, yet these were cautionary tales in which youthful characters were often reformed by the results of their actions. Of these, only Cuthbert and the dogs was published.

Wall text

 

Grosvenor School of Modern Art

This progressive private school was established in 1925 by Scottish wood-engraver Iain Macnab at 33 Warwick Square in Pimlico. Formerly the London studio and house of Scottish portraitist James Rannie Swinton, the ground-floor interior was repurposed into studios for tuition in drawing, painting and composition, with the basement set up for lithography, etching and block printing. With no entrance examinations or fixed terms, students could attend classes at any time by purchasing a book of fifteen tickets, with each ticket permitting entry to a two-hour session.

Merchant hand-selected a small team of similarly anti-academic staff, including Claude Flight. For five years Flight taught weekly afternoon classes on colour linocuts. He emphasised that art must capture the vitality of the machine age and taught his students a new way of seeing that analysed the activities of urban life and condensed these into dynamic compositions bursting with rhythm and energy.

 

Frank Weitzel (New Zealand, 1905 - England 1932) 'Slum street' c. 1929 (installation view)

 

Frank Weitzel (New Zealand, 1905 – England 1932)
Slum street (installation view)
c. 1929
Sydney
Linocut, printed in black ink, from one block
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1993
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The son of German immigrants, Weitzel has a volatile upbringing in Aotearoa New Zealand where his father interned as an enemy alien. At the age of 16, Wentzel emigrated with his mother to the united States of America, where he studied sculpture in California. After travels through Europe, he relocated to Sydney in 1928 were he produced a series of linocuts in response to the city and was invited by Dorrit Black to exhibit with the Group of Seven. Black arranged for Wentzel to meet Claude Flight in London in 1930; Flight included his prints in the annual linocut exhibitions at Redfern Gallery in 1930 and 1931.

Wall text

 

Frank Weitzel was known mainly as a sculptor but in his studio over Grubb’s butcher shop at Circular Quay, he worked in the tradition of the artist-craftsman, producing linocut batik shawls and wall-hangings, lamp shades, book-ends etc. He also played violin in the Conservatorium Orchestra and designed a modern room (with Henry Pynor) at the Burdekin House Exhibition in 1929. In 1931, looking for work in London he sought out David Garnett, a publisher and member of the Bloomsbury Group of artist-craftsman. While Garnett was not interested in Weitzel’s drawings for publication, he became an admirer of his sculpture and invited Weitzel to care-take his property ‘Hilton Hall’ and commissioned him to do heads of children. Weitzel came to be praised also by Jacob Epstein, Roger Fry, Paul Nash and Duncan Grant. Garnett describes Weitzel in his autobiography as “small, thin, with frizzy hair which stood piled up on his head, blue-eyed, with a beaky nose. I guessed he was not eating enough… He was proletarian, rather helpless, very eager about art and also about communism”. At around this time Weitzel wrote to Colin Simpson back in Australia, “Now I am working on a show of my own which is being arranged for me by some terrific money bags”. The exhibition was never held. Weitzel contracted tetanus apparently from minerals which got under his finger nails while digging for clay for his sculptures. He died on the 22 February 1932 at the age of 26. A posthumous exhibition was organised by Dorrit Black at the Modern Art Centre, 56 Margaret Street, Sydney, on the 7 June 1933- opened by another supporter of modernism, the artist John D. Moore. The works had been brought back to Sydney by Weitzel’s sister Mary, who had travelled to England to collect them. This small show (41 works) included illustrations to a poem by Weitzel, poster designs for the Empire Marketing Board, Underground Railways, Shell Motor Spirit, Barclay’s Lager and the Predential Insurance Company, as well as sculpture, drawings and linocuts which had been exhibited with Grosvenor School artists in London.

Anonymous text. “Frank Weitzel (1905-1932),” on the Christie’s website Nd [Online] Cited 28/08/2022

 

Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911-2004) 'Fixing the wires' 1932 (installation view)

 

Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911-2004)
Fixing the wires (installation view)
1932
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from two blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Gift of the artist 1990
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In December 1929, at the age of 18, Tschudi enrolled at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art where she studied under Claude Flight for six months. She also studied in Paris with progressive teachers including André Lhote. Flight was a lifelong supporter of Tschudi and using Fixing the wires as an empale in his 1934 textbook on linocut techniques nothing that ‘the most important point to consider … is the arrangement whereby each colour block is considered as a space-filling whole, as well as part of the final composition made up of the superimposition of all the colour harmonies’.

Wall text

 

Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911-2004) 'Fixing the wires' 1932

 

Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911-2004)
Fixing the wires
1932
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from two blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Gift of the artist 1990

 

Claude Flight (English, 1881-1955) 'Brooklands' c. 1929 (installation view)

 

Claude Flight (English, 1881-1955)
Brooklands (installation view)
c. 1929
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

At the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, Claude Flight taught his students the art of the modern colour linocut. He emphasised the importance of composition, building his images of urban life out of simplified form and pattern. Flight’s own practice drew on an exciting mix of avant-garde ideas: from the abstraction of British Vorticism to the dynamism of Italian Futurism to the bold geometric energy of Art Deco and the Arts and Crafts Movement’s emphasis on the handmade.

Wall text

 

Claude Flight (English, 1881-1955) 'Brooklands' c. 1929

 

Claude Flight (English, 1881-1955)
Brooklands
c. 1929
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992) 'Speedway' 1934 (installation view)

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992)
Speedway (installation view)
1934
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Andrews first studied art by correspondence while working as a welder at an airbase in bristol during the First World War. After meeting her mentor Cyril Power in Bury St Edmonds, they moved to London to study art before Andrews joined the Grosvenor School of Modern Art as a school secretary. Like Flight, Andrews and Power believed that art should reflect the spirit of the time. Andrews showed her work in joint exhibitions with Power at Redfern Gallery, and often explored the them of manual about. She left London in 1938 and emigrated to Canada with her husband Walter Morgan in 1947, where she eventually established a practice as artist and teacher.

Wall text

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992) 'Speedway' 1934

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992)
Speedway
1934
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from four blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Cyril E Power (English, 1872-1951) 'Skaters' c. 1932 and Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992) 'The winch' 1930 (installation view)

 

Cyril E Power (English, 1872-1951)
Skaters (installation view)
c. 1932
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992)
The winch (installation view)
1930
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992) 'The winch' 1930 (installation view)

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992)
The winch (installation view)
1930
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992) 'The winch' 1930

 

Sybil Andrews (English-Canadian, 1898-1992)
The winch
1930
London
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

George Bell (Australian, 1876-1966) 'The departure' 1931 (installation view)

 

George Bell (Australian, 1876-1966)
The departure (installation view)
1931
Melbourne
Linocut, printed in colour inks, from three blocks
National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra
Gift of Mrs B Niven 1988
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Geelong Art Gallery
Little Malop Street
Geelong, Victoria
Australia 3220
Phone: +61 3 5229 3645

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

Geelong Art Gallery website

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18
Sep
22

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘The sun does not move’ 2017-2022

September 2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Women in orange' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Women in orange
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

This posting offers a selection of photographs from my new ninety-eight image sequence The sun does not move (2017-2022). To see the whole extended conversation please visit my website. The text below illuminates the rationale for the work…

 

Two students were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind. “It’s the wind that is really moving,” stated the first one. “No, it is the flag that is moving,” contended the second. A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them. “Neither the flag nor the wind is moving,” he said, “It is MIND that moves.”

 

The photographs in this sequence meditate on the idea that it is the mind of the viewer that constructs the spaces and meanings of these images. It is MIND that moves. The title of this sequence the sun does not move is attributed to Italian polymath Galileo Galilei.

The photographs are not a contemporary dissection of some archaic concept or hidden historical moment. They just are. Why do I make them? Because I feel impelled to be creative, to explore the spiritual in liminal spaces that I find across the earth. Ultimately, I make them for myself, to illuminate the journey that this soul is on.

With wonder and affection and empathy and feeling for the spaces placed before it. As clear as light is for the ‘mind’s eye’.

With thankx to the few “fellow travellers” for their advice and friendship.

Marcus

 

98 images
© Marcus Bunyan

VIEW THE WHOLE SEQUENCE ON MY WEBSITE (preferably on a desktop computer)

 

 

“To try to see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self-indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.”

.
Teilhard de Chardin, Seeing 1947

 

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ print costs $1,000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see the Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Brick pattern' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Brick pattern
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Sliver' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Sliver
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Bus depot' South London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Bus depot
South London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Gare du Nord' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Gare du Nord
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Blue / White' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Blue/White
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Tomb effigy' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Tomb effigy
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Float' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Float
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Scar' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Scar
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Circle, two white lines, four pieces of white and a trail of dark oil' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Circle, two white lines, four pieces of white and a trail of dark oil
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Couple in light' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Couple in light
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The crossing' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The crossing
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Equilibrium' Tuileries, Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Equilibrium
Tuileries, Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Leaving' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Leaving
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The sun does not move, it's your mind that moves...' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The sun does not move, it’s your mind that moves…
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Crystallize' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Crystallize
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Hand in hand' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Hand in hand
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'We might be otherwise – we might be all' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
We might be otherwise – we might be all
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Every kind of pleasure' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Every kind of pleasure
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Eiffel Tower II' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Eiffel Tower II
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Profusion' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Profusion
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Ancient and modern' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Ancient and modern
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Two black holes' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Two black holes
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The Wheel of Time' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The Wheel of Time
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek (Shelley)' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek (Shelley)
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Modernisation' Montparnasse, Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Modernisation
Montparnasse, Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The light whose smile kindles the universe' Palace of Fontainebleau, France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The light whose smile kindles the universe
Palace of Fontainebleau, France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The unknown thought I' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The unknown thought I
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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31
Jul
22

Photographs: Frank Hurley – Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front during the First World War, mid-1917 – September 1918

July 2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The Battalion' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The Battalion
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Familiar yet strange: Frank Hurley’s First World War photographs

Most texts about the war photographs of Frank Hurley taken on the Western Front that I have read, focus on his use of multiple negatives to construct fantastical images of reportage, ‘Photographic Impression Pictures’ – combination prints – “pictures made to produce a realistic impression of certain events by the combined use of a number of negatives.” Hurley argued that it was impossible to capture the essence of what he saw in a single negative. He observed in the Australasian Photo-Review in 1919:

“None but those who have endeavoured can realise the insurmountable difficulties of portraying a modern battle by the camera. To include the event on a single negative, I have tried and tried, but the results are hopeless … Now, if negatives are taken of all the separate incidents in the action and combined, some idea may then be gained of what a modern battle looks like.”1

“Hurley desperately wanted to convey this horror through his photographs. He took many shots of the apocalyptic battlefields but was not content. While bleak, the stillness and shock of these images failed to communicate the cacophony of war. How was he to visually capture the ‘blinding sheet of flame; and the […] screaming shriek of thousands of shells’?”2

Hurley clashed with the official historian, Captain Charles Bean, about truth and photography. Bean was not convinced on the use of multiple negatives and referred to the images as ‘fakes’ but, on threat of resignation, Hurley stood his ground “and was not prepared to compromise for his art nor to fail in his duty to portray the horrors that he witnessed.”

These images formed a very small part of the work that Hurley produced in World War I and none are reproduced in this posting.

.
Personally I am more interested in Hurley’s “straight” photographs and in observing the minutiae within each image. By doing this we can began to invert Hurley’s idea of capturing the whole event on the battlefield on a combined “macro” multi-negative. What Hurley was actually doing in his ordinary photographs was making possible such a complete record through the accumulation of familiar yet strange “micro” observations on a single negative – creating “atmospheres” of existence that document incidents in the action, which formally work together to picture the whole.

For example in the photograph 48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (18th July – 6th November 1917, below), Hurley uses a “near far” perspective, focusing the viewer’s eye along the perspective of the trench to the lone tree, building and standing figure vanishing point in the distance: but in the detail we can observe a man smoking a pipe, two men sewing and, to the right, what looks like a Very Pistol (or flare gun) – heavily used in both world wars – casually lying on a sandbag. The slight blur of the soldiers Brodie Mark I helmet at left indicates the length of the exposure, the physical length of that exposures existence. By observing the minutiae in this image the viewer can enter the space of the image and be fully present with these soldiers.

Other photographs offer more intriguing details that contribute to make the whole “picture” of the battlefield. Showing the cacophony and detritus of war, Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele (18th July – 6th November 1917, below) also shows in the misty background the silhouette of one of those new fangled tanks that were making an appearance on the battlefield, probably knocked out or broken down as they usually were. In the photograph incorrectly titled by Lawsons, ‘Australians Waiting to “Go Over”‘ – its correct title being Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele (1917, below) – we can observe a man holding a gas mask in his left hand; canisters of water and other belongings hanging from metal rods banged into the mud of the face of the trench; a big wooden stretcher standing vertically in the trench; and two of the men wearing an armband brassard with the words SB on them, indicating these men were stretcher bearers. Again, in the minutiae of elements, of detail, Hurley creates direct access to an “atmosphere” of the battlefield in all its dourness, mud and hollow-eyed soldiers staring grimly at the camera.

In the photograph Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road (4 October 1917, below), Hurley captures the balletic dance required to load a monster, death dealing gun… the heavy shells manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Reminiscent of the group portraits of Rembrandt with their “dramatic use of light and shadow (tenebrism) and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military group portrait,”3 Hurley’s photograph features three acolytes with their heads bowed at right whilst in the centre three seemingly kneeling figures raise their eyes as if in a devotional Renaissance painting to observe Christ being raised, pulled by chains onto the cross which is suspended above them.

In Hurley’s observations of the world – quick, fleeting glances of destruction, not long fixed stares – we look, recognise and feel his need to recognise his objective… before we need to verbalise our objective, ‘clear-sighted’, unbiased ‘views’ of the subject matter. In Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917 (September 20th, 1917, below), Hurley’s glass plate has cracked much like the world he was photographing. Clutching a blanket, a man on a stretcher in the foreground turns to look at the camera(man) while next to him a sergeant put his hand to his head. To his left another man is covered with a blanket so that we can only see his face from the nose upwards but we can observe he is staring towards the camera. Behind these grounded men is a maelstrom of movement picturing the violent turmoil of war – abandoned stretchers to the right; an upended lorry perched precariously at an angle; and walking wounded trudging past the seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. This photograph is but a tiny grain of sand on the head of a pin, here and then gone, for soon after Major George Heydon (the man in the sling in the centre of the photograph) had passed this point “a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers.”4 Life recorded and then snuffed out, both in less than a second.

Hurley need not have worried about capturing the macro, the whole of any event, for this is an impossible task with any still camera. By it’s very nature the camera excludes whatever is outside its direct line of sight, its point of view… so it is always exclusory. But in freezing the micro/cosmos within any photograph what Hurley captures are intriguing, fleeting “atmospheres” where the contexts and conditions for creation have brought together disparate elements to create a visual whole, in this case a dance of death.

In my mind, Hurley’s war photographs are much like the later English photographer Bill Brandt’s landscape photographs. Despite the difference in subject matter, my feeling is that both Brandt and Hurley were trying to display a sublime aesthetic. Whereas Hurley wanted to capture the intensity of the battlefield and its death and despair in one intimate, sublime image – here using sublime in the archaic sense of wanting to elevate something to a high degree of moral or spiritual purity or excellence – Brandt wanted to capture the archaic sublime beauty of the landscape. Brandt attempted to do this by introducing “an atmosphere that connects with the viewer in order to provoke an emotional response from contemplation of the work. In this sense it would seem that Brandt did not merely aim to represent a place but to capture its very essence in a single image…”5 The very thing that Hurley stated he wanted to do, to give some idea of what a modern battle looks and feels like in a single negative. Brandt stated, “Thus it was I found atmosphere to be the spell that charged the commonplace with beauty. … I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange.”6

To photograph these minutiae is not simply to document but to (e)strange through a heightened sense of atmosphere. A combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange: Isn’t that what Hurley’s war photographs are?

Hurley’s photographs contain a familiar yet strange “atmosphere” at once both objective but truly immersive and subjective (we can “picture” ourselves there) – in which the different elements that make the landscape (nature, light, viewpoint, weather conditions, subject, context) converge in an aesthetic canon rooted in a cultural tradition – in this case, war and war photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,450

 

Footnotes

1/ Australasian Photo-Review, 15 Feb, 1919, p. 164

2/ Anonymous. “Frank Hurley’s World War I photography,” on the State Library of New South Wales website Nd [Online] Cited 28/07/2022

3/ Anonymous. “The Night Watch,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 28/07/2022

4/ Anonymous. “AWM E00711,” on the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

5/ Anonymous. “Bill Brandt” text for the exhibition of the same name at the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid quoted on the Art Blart website 22nd August 2021 [Online] Cited 28/07/2022

6/ Ibid.,

.
These photographs appeared on the Lawsons Auctioneers, Sydney website and are published here under fair use conditions for the purpose of education and research. I have added pertinent information with each photograph where possible. Each photograph has been lightly digitally cleaned. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away: only stumps of trees stick up here & there […] It’s the most awful & appalling sight I have ever seen. The exaggerated machinations of hell are here typified. Everywhere the ground is littered with bits of guns, bayonets, shells & men. Way down in one of these mine craters was an awful sight. There lay three hideous, almost skeleton decomposed fragments of corpses of German gunners. Oh the frightfulness of it all. To think that these fragments were once sweethearts, may be, husbands or loved sons, & this was the end. Almost back again to their native element but terrible. Until my dying day I shall never forget this haunting glimpse down into the mine crater on hill 60.”

.
Frank Hurley diary entry, 23rd August, 1917

 

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

.
John McCrae

 

 

James Francis “Frank” Hurley was 30 years old when he joined the Australian Imperial Force as an honorary captain and official photographer.

Before arriving on the Western Front in August 1917 to document the Third Battle of Ypres, Hurley had been no stranger to photographing under risky conditions. Less than one year earlier, he had returned to civilisation after two years stranded on the pack ice of Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance, a desperate struggle for survival during which he managed to produce a stunning set of images.

 

Hurley’s commitment to capturing an image, to ‘getting there without a fuss’, as Bean described it, underplays the many difficulties he faced in the field. His daily encounters with death, destruction and the ubiquitous mud of Flanders can only have hampered his photography. Hurley was – perhaps unknowingly – echoing Bean’s impetus to establish a national collection and, in turn, a memorial to Australians at war when he wrote:

“My enthusiasm and keenness, however, to record the hideous things men have to endure urges me on. No monetary considerations, or very few others in fact, would induce any man to flounder in mud to his knees to try and take pictures.”

Frank Hurley, quoted in Daniel O’Keefe, Hurley at War: The Photography and Diaries of Frank Hurley in Two World Wars, Fairfax Library, Sydney, 1986, p. 7 quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in National Gallery of Victoria Art Journal 51, 26 Jul 13 [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (recto)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '48th Battalion awaiting orders to "Hop" in the Big Drive' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
48th Battalion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australians Waiting to "go over" Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australians Waiting to “go over” Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Notice the silhouette of the tank in the background of the photograph, and at centre right a .303inch Vickers Machine Gun mounted on a tripod (see below)

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun between 1914 and 1918

 

.303inch Vickers Machine Gun
between 1914 and 1918
Courtesy of York Museums Trust
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

 

 

Standard Vickers machine gun with tripod mount and associated ammunition belt, ammunition box plus petrol can (as a condenser can) with hose. The Vickers Gun was the standard British machine gun from 1912. It was heavy and mounted on a tripod, requiring a team of six men to transport it to and operate it on the battlefield. Although difficult to use on advancing troops, machine guns were used to deadly effect from defensive positions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele' 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

State Library of Queensland title: Australian Field Ambulance officers sheltering in trench
Imperial War Museum title: Members of the 13th Australian Field Ambulance at Passchendaele © IWM (E(AUS) 839)
Lawsons title: Australians Waiting to “Go Over” (no text on verso of print)

 

 

The caption from Lawsons auction house is incorrect. These are not front line troops waiting to “go over” but stretcher bearers as evidenced by the armband on the two men on the left hand side of the photograph and their attendant stretcher vertically propped up against the trench.

“While the soldiers were readying themselves at the front of a trench, awaiting the order to go over the top, the unarmed bearers were at the back with their big wooden stretchers, trying, says Mayhew, to be as invisible as possible because the fighting men often considered them unlucky.”

 

In a more recent Australian publication Diaries of a Stretcher-Bearer 1916-1918 the Great War experience of Edward Charles Munro is retold. Munro served as an AAMC stretcher-bearer on the Western Front (Edward C. Munro, Donald Munro (ed.), Diaries of a stretcher-bearer: 1916-1918, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 2010). Munro, awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917, candidly related his involvement and experience in the 5th Australian Field Ambulance. The text gives the reader a clear understanding of the work and wartime experience of an Australian stretcher-bearer on the Western Front and is remarkable for its honesty and detail. The work is unusual as it portrayed the reality of life on the Western Front in a manner few others have done. For example, the author graphically described the technical aspects of the stretcher-bearers’ work in evacuating the wounded and frankly related his personal fears and those of his AAMC stretcher-bearer squad while working in harsh conditions and whilst under fire.

Liana Markovich. “‘No time for tears for the dying’: stretcher-bearers on the Western Front, 1914-1918.” Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of New South Wales, November 2015, p. 20.

 

Unknown maker. 'Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF' c. 1916

 

Unknown maker
Armband brassard: Stretcher Bearer, Australian Army – Lance Corporal A Kennedy, 52 Battalion, AIF
c. 1916
Brass, Linen, White metal, Wool
Australian War Memorial Collection

 

 

Description

White woollen brassard (arm band), lined with white linen, with a nickel plated metal buckle, and five brass riveted eyelets at the free end for size adjustment. The letters ‘SB’ (stretcher bearer), in fine red wool cloth, are appliqué in the centre. The reverse has the wearer’s initials ‘A.K.’ in indelible pencil.

 

History / Summary

Alexander Kennedy, born in Glebe, Sydney, was a 20 year old baker working in Brisbane, when he enlisted in the AIF on 27 April 1915. After training he was assigned as a private to the Headquarters of 26 Battalion, with the service number 570.

The battalion sailed for Egypt on 29 June, aboard the troopship HMAT A60 Aenas, and then on to Gallipoli, where they landed on 12 September, undertaking defensive roles on the peninsula. Kennedy suffered what was diagnosed as an epileptic fit on 18 October. After assessment at 16 (British) Casualty Clearing Station, he returned to his unit the following day, but immediately suffered more fits. As a result, he was evacuated to the hospital ship, Soudan, and taken to Malta for treatment. Kennedy returned to duty in Egypt in March 1916 and transferred to D Company, 52 Battalion the following month, as a battalion stretcher bearer.

On 6 June 1916, he sailed with his battalion, aboard the Iverniai, to France for service on the Western Front. On 18 August Kennedy was promoted to lance corporal. In its first action in France, at Mouquet Farm on 3 September, fifty per cent of the men in 52 Battalion became casualties. Kennedy was one of them, receiving gunshot wounds to the shoulder, chest and left thigh, and fractured toes. Shortly before he was wounded he took part in an action in which a German machine gun crew were killed, for which he was subsequently awarded the Military Medal.

Kennedy was evacuated to a casualty clearing station on 5 September and then on to 18 (British) General Hospital at Camiers. There, his condition fluctuated, improving by 2 October, dangerously ill two weeks later, and then improving on 24 October. It is unclear form his records whether one or both of his legs was amputated, but an amputation took place on 16 November. A decision was made to try to transfer him to England by easy stages and he was moved about 4 miles to the St John’s Brigade Hospital near Etaples at the end of November. However, infection set in and he died there of septicemia at 12.15 a.m. on 2 December.

Anonymous text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 29th October 1917 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (recto)
29th October 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Australian troops walk along a duckboard track through the remains of Chateau Wood, Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 29 October 1917. The word duckboard was created during the early 20th century to describe the boards or slats of wood laid down to provide safe footing for the soldiers of World War I across wet or muddy ground in trenches or camps.

“One dares not venture off the duckboard or he will surely become bogged, or sink in the quicksand-like slime of rain-filled shell craters. Add to this frightful walking a harassing shellfire and soaking to the skin, and you curse the day that you were induced to put foot on this polluted damned ground.”

~ Frank Hurley Diary October 11, 1917

 

WWI, 30 Oct 1917; A general view of the battlefield at Hannebeek in the Ypres sector. In the foreground are the duckboard and corduroy tracks leading to Westhoek and Anzac Ridge, and beyond it several Australian artillerymen (right) can be seen making their way to their dugouts in the wood.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track' 18th July - 6th November 1917 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele Stunt Duckwalk track (verso)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The mud Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The mud Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian artillery, Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian artillery, Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

Australian gun crew next to what looks like a Vickers BL 8-inch howitzer (Mark VII or VIII) (see below)

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer

 

British-designed BL 8 inch Mk 7 howitzer, manufactured in USA as Model 1917 and supplied to the Finnish army. Displayed in Hämeenlinna Artillery Museum. The stampings on the breech state: 8 IN. HOWITZER MODEL OF 1917 (VICKERS) MIDVALE NO 188 1918 VICKERS MARK VI
Photo taken on June 18, 2006
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Hellfire corner, Menin Road' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Hellfire corner, Menin Road (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Hurley’s most famous images, his view of Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front”, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917. Notice the attempt to screen the galloping horses and artillery from German observation and then shelling by flimsy pieces of material at the left hand side of the image.

“It [the Menin Road] is notorious and being enfiladed by the enemy’s fire is decidedly the hottest ground on the whole front. The way is strewn with dead horses, the effect of last night’s shelling and battered men’s helmets that tell of the fate of the drivers.”

~ Frank Hurley, diary, 14 September 1917, MS883, National Library of Australia

 

Hellfire Corner on the Menin Road, in the Ypres Sector. This well named locality was continually under observation and notorious for its danger. At night this road was crammed with traffic, limbers, guns, pack animals, motor lorries and troops. Several motor lorries received direct hits at different times and were totally destroyed. The dead bodies of horses, mules and men were often to be seen lying where the last shell had got them. The neighbourhood was piled with the wreckage of all kinds of transport. A ‘sticky’ spot that was always taken at the trot. Left to right is Ypres Wood on Railway Ridge in background, hessian camouflage on the corner, Hooge, track to Gordon House veers to the right with Leinster Farm in the distance.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

The crossroads on the Menin Road outside Ypres, 27 September 1917. This spot was known as ‘Hellfire Corner’ and from the heights a few kilometres away German artillery observers could see the constant traffic passing along the Menin Road to the front lines. A British transport driver described Hellfire Corner: ‘… when I got to Hellfire Corner it was chaos. A salvo of shells had landed in among the convoy. The lorries were scattered all over the place and even those that hadn’t been directly hit had been run off the roadway … the road was littered with bodies and debris and shell-holes all over the place. (Driver LG Burton, Army Service Corps, quoted in Lyn Macdonald, They Called it Passchendaele, London, 1979, p. 92. Image: E01889)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Hellfire Corner was a junction in the Ypres Salient in the First World War. The main supplies for the British Army in this sector passed along the road from Ypres to Menin – the famous Menin Road. A section of the road was where the Sint-Jan-Zillebeke road and the Ypres-Roulers (Roeselare) railway (line 64) crossed the road. The German Army positions overlooked this spot and their guns were registered upon it so that movement through this junction was perilous, making it the most dangerous place in the sector.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

3rd Battle Ypres 1917 WW1 Footage Hell Fire Corner Menin Road Then And Now

Then and Now look at Hellfire Corner on Menin Road. Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces incurred 38,000 casualties.

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading 'Granny', a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road' 4 October 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road
4 October 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Australian howitzer, Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Crew of 2 Gun, Royal Marine Artillery loading ‘Granny’, a 15 inch Howitzer (heavy artillery gun), near the Menin Road, in the Ypres sector, one of the monsters which, in the fighting of 4 October 1917, greatly assisted the advance by pounding the enemy’s reserve areas and demolishing the concrete fortresses. The heavy shells are manoeuvred over to the gun with a chain and pulley rigged up beside the gun pit. Identified front right supporting a shell is Gunner 1113 A.C. Holder.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

The Battle of Menin Road was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres [also known as the Battle of Passchendaele] on the Western Front, undertaken by the British Second Army in an attempt to take sections of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed. This action saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd Divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack was successful along its entire front, though the advancing troops had to overcome formidable entrenched German defensive positions which included mutually supporting concrete pill-box strongpoints and also resist fierce German counter-attacks. A feature of this battle was the intensity of the opening British artillery support. The two AIF Divisions sustained 5,013 casualties in the action.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Heavy artillery was designed to pulverise enemy defensive positions. By and large German defences were constructed very well indeed, and the onus was on the Allies to attack them to retake ground occupied by the Germans in 1914. German defences often comprised concrete blockhouses and deep underground concrete dugouts which were impervious to Field Artillery.

Big guns were a prime target for opposing artillerymen who would seek to apply counter battery fire to enemy gun positions. Locating them accurately was a story in itself. In the end it was the British who triumphed thanks largely to the work of Adelaide-born (later Professor and 1915 Nobel Prize winner) Captain Lawrence Bragg, serving in the Royal Artillery. He and his team developed a surprisingly accurate technique based on sound ranging that gave the Allies a decisive advantage being able to locate enemy heavy guns with remarkable accuracy. It was a decisive factor in the Allied victory on 8th August 1918 at the Battle of Amiens.

Gunners have four defensive measures; distance from the enemy, concealment, protection in the form of dugouts and bunkers, and mobility. As far as range was concerned, soldiers have a saying; “if the enemy is in range so are you”. At least with heavy guns, they are generally beyond the range of Field Artillery. Concealment? When one of these guns went off, the entire neighbourhood knew it; at night the muzzle flash was prodigious, so notions of concealment were therefore moot. Once firing began the best protection is to be part of a massed barrage. Mobility is a misnomer in the case of most heavy artillery; it is certainly relative. The 9.2 inch Howitzers were not mobile – they could not easily be redeployed without time and lifting equipment. Protection? Defensive earthworks would not sustain a direct hit by enemy heavy artillery. Nor could they prevent enemy infantry attacking if they ever managed to get close enough (which they did during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917). In short, being a gunner was not without risk.

The Australian Heavy Batteries served on the Western Front largely detached from the rest of the AIF. They spent relatively little time on the Somme. Most of their service was rendered further north around Arras and Vimy in France and into Flanders, as part of British Corps Artillery. The Heavy Batteries were manned at the outset with soldiers from the permanent force Garrison Artillery, later augmented by reinforcements from the militia.

Steve Larkins. “36th Heavy Artillery Group,” on the Virtual War Memorial website November 2014 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
September 20th, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

National Library of Australia title: Australian wounded on the Menin Road, near Birr Cross Road on September 20th, 1917
Australian War Memorial title:
A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, Belgium, Frank Hurley, 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: The Wounded Ypres (no text on back of print)

 

 

Notice the broken glass of the negative plate, the man being led at left possibly blinded in a gas attack, and the piles of stretchers at right.

“The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners… A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 20 September 1917

 

“It was wondrously quiet, only an occasional shell was fired – the aftermath of the storm, and it sounded for all the world like the occasional boom of a roller on a peaceful beach, with the swish of the water corresponding to the scream of the shell.”

~ Hurley Diary entry 21 September 1917

 

A scene on the Menin Road near Hooge, 20 September 1917. The wounded are waiting for clearance to the advanced dressing station further back down the Menin Road towards Ypres. The soldier with his arm in a sling in the centre of the photograph is Major George Heydon, Regimental Medical Officer, 8th Battalion AIF, with members of the 1st Field Ambulance AIF. Shortly after Major Heydon passed this point a shell landed at that same spot killing many of the men on the stretchers. (AWM E00711)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

In his photograph of the wounded on the Menin Road (above), Hurley shows a seemingly endless line of injured and dead lying on the side of a muddy road in a decimated landscape. A lone figure appears to be providing aid while a stream of stretcher-bearers, soldiers and German prisoners passes by. Hurley’s photograph conveys the scale of the landscape and the terrible human toll. The awfulness of the scene is confirmed in his diary entry from that day: ‘The Menin Road is a wondrous sight: with stretcher bearers packed on either side awaiting transport and the centre crowded with walking wounded and prisoners’. He also commented:

‘A large number of casualties were coming in when we left … Those that came in and were not overly seriously wounded expressed their pleasure of having escaped the horror of another battle, and it is patent that all will thoroughly loathe this frightful prolongation of massacre.’

Hurley (diary entry, 20th September 1917) quoted in Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria website 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole near Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole near Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

By the time Australian Frank Hurley arrived on the Western Front to assume ‘the grim duties of France’ in 1917,1 he had a well-established reputation as a photographer, adventurer and raconteur. His photographs and films along with his thrillingly described exploits in Antarctica on expeditions with Sir Douglas Mawson (1911-1913) and Sir Ernest Shackleton (1914-1916) had captured the public imagination. Hurley’s skills as a photographer, his controversial and occasionally shocking imagery and his ability to put on a ‘good show’ continued to ensure that his work was seen by mass audiences in London, Sydney and Melbourne in the years immediately following the First World War. A popular success with the general public, the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs opened in Melbourne in 1921 and offered audiences the opportunity to purchase his photographs and those of other official war photographers. Copies of four photographs by Hurley believed to be from this exhibition were presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2003.2

The outbreak of war in Europe coincided with the departure of Shackleton and his crew, including Hurley, on the Imperial Trans-Antarctica expedition. For the crew of the Endurance – largely comprising men from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand – the knowledge of the war in Europe must have weighed heavily. The Shackleton expedition met with disaster before it reached Antarctica. From January 1915 until August 1916 the party was stranded and had no news of the outside world. Aware of the outbreak of war, the shipwrecked crew often speculated on the outcome of the conflict, unaware that it was far from over. In July 1916 Hurley’s crewmate Thomas Orde Lee wrote in his diary: ‘I think we are all a little ashamed of having run away from it. Most though, think it must be over by now’.3 At the time of their rescue, all were shocked to learn that, after two years, the war was not over but, in fact, had escalated. The impact of this news was described by Shackleton who wrote that, upon being rescued, they felt ‘like men arisen from the dead to a world gone mad’.4

Within ten weeks of his rescue, Hurley travelled to London. In August 1917 he was appointed an official photographer and cinematographer with the Australian War Records Section (AWRS). Formed in May of that year, the AWRS, under the direction of Charles Bean, was charged to collect Australian war relics and records, including photographs. Photo-historian Shaune Lakin notes that, for Bean, ‘the photograph formed part of a broader national archive comprising written accounts, relics, and other pictorial records that together would tell the story and commemorate the history of Australians at war’.5 In this capacity Hurley was quickly deployed to Europe, arriving in France on 21 August 1917. He was under the direction of Bean, with whom he had a difficult relationship on occasions; the two are reputed to have disagreed about the role of photography. A notable point of conflict between them was Hurley’s commitment to using multiple negatives to create some of his photographs of battlefield scenes. For Hurley, singular photographs often failed to convey the scale, drama and activity of battle, and he described such images as looking more like a ‘rehearsal in a paddock’.6 In contrast, Bean’s view was that photographs needed to be an unmanipulated documentary record of the events in which Australian forces were engaged. But despite their differences, Bean clearly had respect for Hurley’s commitment to obtaining the images he wanted, and wrote: ‘[Hurley] is a splendid, capable photo-grapher. I was worrying that he might miss the best pictures but he always got there, without fuss’.7

After the sublime wilderness of Antarctica, wartime London presented a bleak picture to Hurley, but it was nothing compared to the horrors of the Western Front. His diaries convey the destruction he encountered. On his first day in Flanders, Hurley wrote: ‘What an awful scene of desolation! Everything has been swept away, – only stumps of trees stick up here or there and the whole field has the appearance of having been recently ploughed’.8 Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

His photographs convey even more vividly the visceral horror of the battlefield.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2012).

Extract from Susan van Wyk. “The grim duties of France: Frank Hurley and the Exhibition of Enlargements Official War Photographs,” in Art Journal 51, National Gallery of Victoria 2013 [Online] Cited 23/07/2022

 

Notes

  1. Frank Hurley, ‘My diary, official war photographer, Commonwealth Military Forces, from 21 August 1917 to 31 August 1918’, in Papers of Frank Hurley, Manuscripts Collection, MS 833, National Library of Australia, Canberra.
  2. It is believed that the four NGV photographs may have come from this exhibition because the images’ sizes match the smallest print size offered for sale in the 1921 exhibition.
  3. Thomas Orde Lee (diary entry, 19 July 1916), quoted in Alisdair McGregor, Frank Hurley: A Photographer’s Life, Viking, Melbourne, 2004, p. 136.
  4. Ernest Shackleton, South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917, Konecky & Konecky, New York, 1998, p. 231.
  5. Shaune Lakin, Contact: Photographs from the Australian War Memorial Collection, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2006, p. xi.
  6. Frank Hurley, ‘War photography’, Australasian Photo-Review, 15 February 1919, p. 164, quoted in Helen Ennis, Man with a Camera: Frank Hurley Overseas, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2002, p. 3.
  7. Charles Bean (diary entry, vol. 132), quoted in David Millar, Snowdrift to Shellfire: Captain James Francis Hurley 1885-1962, David Ell, Sydney, 1984, p. 61.
  8. Hurley (diary entry, 23 August 1917).

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Sept 20, 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Terrible effects of our Artillery. Boche dead may be seen lying in the foreground. Sept 20 1917. 4th Division
Australian War Memorial title: Captured German trenches strewn with dead after the battle of 20 September 1917
Lawsons title: “Dead” Passchendaele (no text on back of print)

 

 

Battle of Passchendaele (31 July – 10 November 1917) also known as the Third Battle of Ypres

The Third Battle of Ypres (German: Dritte Flandernschlacht; French: Troisième Bataille des Flandres; Dutch: Derde Slag om Ieper), also known as the Battle of Passchendaele (/ˈpæʃəndeɪl/), was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, as part of a strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917. Passchendaele lies on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from Roulers (now Roeselare) a junction of the Bruges (Brugge) to Kortrijk railway. The station at Roulers was on the main supply route of the German 4th Army. Once Passchendaele Ridge had been captured, the Allied advance was to continue to a line from Thourout (now Torhout) to Couckelaere (Koekelare).

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuport (Nieuwpoort), combined with an amphibious landing (Operation Hush), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. Although a general withdrawal had seemed inevitable in early October, the Germans were able to avoid one due to the resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather in August, the beginning of the autumn rains in October and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and early in the new year. The Battle of the Lys (Fourth Battle of Ypres) and the Fifth Battle of Ypres of 1918, were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.

A campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch, the Chief of Staff of the French Army. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since 1917 include the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.

The choice of Flanders, its climate, the selection of General Hubert Gough and the Fifth Army to conduct the offensive, debates over the nature of the opening attack and between advocates of shallow and deeper objectives, remain controversial. The time between the Battle of Messines (7-14 June) and the first Allied attack (the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July), the extent to which the internal troubles of the French armies influenced the British, the effect of the exceptional weather, the decision to continue the offensive in October and the human costs of the campaign are also debated.

Text from the Wikipedia website – fuller information on the battle is available from this website

 

On 6th November 1917, after three months of fierce fighting, British and Canadian forces finally took control of the tiny village of Passchendaele in the West Flanders region of Belgium, so ending one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. With approximately a third of a million British and Allied soldiers either killed or wounded, the Battle of Passchendaele (officially the third battle of Ypres), symbolises the true horror of industrialised trench warfare.

General Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief in France, had been convinced to launch his forces at the German submarine bases along the Belgian coast in an attempt to reduce the massive shipping losses then being suffered by the Royal Navy. General Haig also believed that the German army was close to collapse and that a major offensive … “just one more push”, could hasten the end the war.

Thus the offensive at Passchendaele was launched on the 18th July 1917 with a bombardment of the German lines involving 3,000 guns. In the 10 days that followed, it is estimated that over 4 1/4 million shells were fired. Many of these would have been filled by the brave Lasses of Barnbow.

The actual infantry assault followed at 03.50 on 31st July, but far from collapsing, the German Fourth Army fought well and restricted the main British advance to relatively small gains.

Ben Johnson. “The Battle of Passchendaele,” on the Historic UK website Nd [Online] Cited 28/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Destruction Passchendaele' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Destruction Passchendaele
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

A group of gelatin silver prints in identical format, each 145 x 200mm and each unmounted. Reverse of each image shows Frank Hurley’s negative number in pencil, and ten with an additional contemporary manuscript caption in ink, (clearly written by an eyewitness) as follows: St Quentin Canal; Passchendaele Stunt. Duck walk track; 48th Battallion awaiting orders to “Hop” in the Big Drive; Big 15″ gun emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to evacuate; A row of Howitzers of 105th Battery behind a cut bank near Bray; 4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers; Armoured Cars; The 27th & 28th Battns. having a rest & meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt. St. Quentin Sept 1 1918; Dead Fritz Machine Gunner & Gun 8 August ’18; One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated. …

A substantial archive of photographs by Australia’s pre-eminent war photographer, Frank Hurley (1885-1962). Among them are some of Hurley’s most famous images, including his view of Hell Fire Corner on the Menin Road, “the most dangerous place on the Western Front” and the ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, both taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917.

From mid 1917 to early September 1918 the Australian photographer and adventurer Frank Hurley, who had already achieved fame for his Antarctic photographs taken on Douglas Mawson’s expedition, served on the Western Front as an official war photographer in the AIF, with the honorary rank of captain. His dramatic images vividly capture the carnage and atmosphere in perhaps the most brutalising theatre of war in the history of human conflict. Hurley’s photographs featured in the exhibition Australian War Pictures and Photographs, staged in London in 1918.

Anonymous text. “An Archive of Photographs Documenting the Experience of Soldiers of the AIF on the Western Front By Frank Hurley,” on the Lawsons website 7th December 2020 [Online] Cited 25/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Camped out near Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Camped out near Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ruins Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ruins Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

I’m afraid that I’m becoming callous to many of the extraordinary sights and sounds that take place around me, and things which astounded me when I landed, now seem quite commonplace.

It is a weird, awful and terrible sight; yet somehow wildly beautiful. For my part, Ypres as it now is, has a curious fascination and aesthetically is far more interesting than the Ypres that was.

.
~ Excerpt from Frank Hurley’s diary

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Australian Field Gun Ypres 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Australian artillery gunners hard at work behind their 18 pounder field gun.

 

 

QF 18-pounder gun

The Ordnance QF 18-pounder, or simply 18-pounder gun, was the standard British Empire field gun of the First World War-era. It formed the backbone of the Royal Field Artillery during the war, and was produced in large numbers. It was used by British Forces in all the main theatres, and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (84 mm) and shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent field guns in French (75 mm) and German (77 mm) service. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The first versions were introduced in 1904. Later versions remained in service with British forces until early 1942. During the interwar period, the 18-pounder was developed into the early versions of the equally famous Ordnance QF 25-pounder, which would form the basis of the British artillery forces during and after the Second World War in much the same fashion as the 18-pounder had during the First.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information about the field gun please see the website

 

The Gun

The Quick Firing (QF) 18 Pounder was the principle Field Gun of the British Army in World War One. The gun saw service in every theatre of the Great War. Its calibre of 84mm and shell weight made it more brutal and destructive than the French 75mm and German 77mm. Its ammunition had the shell combined with the cartridge thus giving it the description of ‘quick firing’.

The gun and its ammunition limber were towed by a team of six light draught horses. A driver was allocated to each two horse team and rode the left horse of each pair. The two wheeled ammunition limber was hooked up to the horses and the trail of the gun was hooked to the limber. Further to this, each gun had two additional ammunition limbers towed by their own team. The photograph below illustrates the standard horse drawn configuration.

The gun detachments, led by the detachment sergeant on his own horse, rode into action either on the horses or on the limber. During the early stages of the war, an ammunition limber was positioned on the left of the gun, but as the war progressed and larger quantities of ammunition were being used, stockpiles of ammunition were dumped in pits next to the guns.

 

The Australian History

The 18 pounder gun was introduced into Australian service in 1906 and continued to be used until 1945. It was the standard field gun in service until 1940 when it began to be replaced by the 25 pounder gun. When World War 1 commenced there were 116 18-pounder guns in Australia and 76 of these were sent to Gallipoli and France during the war. In addition further guns were purchased to replace damaged guns and also to supply the increasing number of gun batteries in the AIF. It is estimated some 500 guns were obtained in all. 116 were brought back to Australia. Today only seven of this early model remain of which three are updated with pneumatic tyres and three are Museum items.

Anonymous text. “The 18 Pounder Project,” on the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company website Nd [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

18 Pounder field gun

 

The RAAHC 18 Pounder, before restoration

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Shell hole, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Shell hole, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917'

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The ruined Cathedral of Ypres, seen from the Cloth Hall, taken during the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917 (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Destroyed Ruined Cathedral Ypres (no text on rear of print)
Australian War Memorial title: An unidentified Australian soldier looking at a portion of the ruined Cathedral at Ypres

 

 

To drive the Boche from Ypres, it was necessary to practically raze the town; and now that we hold it we are shelled in return, but shelling now makes little difference, for the fine buildings and churches are scarce left stone on stone.

Roaming amongst the domestic ruins made me sad. Here and there were fragments of toys: what a source of happiness they once were.

The strafed trees were coming back to life and budding, and there beside a great shell crater blossomed a single rose. How out of place it seemed amidst all this ravage. I took compassion on it and plucked it – The last rose of Ypres.

.
~ Frank Hurley Diary September 3, 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres' 18th July - 6th November 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Evening by the Cloth Hall, Ypres (Third Battle of Ypres / Battle of Passchendaele)
18th July – 6th November 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: After the battle at Ypres (no text on verso of print)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '"Anzac" tank in the mud' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
“Anzac” tank in the mud
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title, no text on back of print

 

 

The ‘Anzac’ blockhouse on which Lieutenant Arthur Hull, 18th Battalion AIF, placed the Australian flag on 20 September 1917. When the battalion attacked this position the German garrison was attempting to evacuate the blockhouse, dragging their two machine-guns with them. The Germans were overpowered and captured. (AWM E02321)

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

A pillbox known as Anzac Strong Post, captured by Australian troops in the attack of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions, on 20 September 1917, and on which they hoisted an Australian flag. To this position there subsequently came an enemy messenger dog with messages to a German officer, telling of the Australian attack and instructing him to hold out at all costs. The dog was killed by shellfire later in the day, and the flag was destroyed, for the pillbox suffered many direct hits from the enemy’s high explosive shells. This photograph was taken a week later. Note the ANZAC sign and the rifles leaning against the pill box.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15" destroyed before Fritz evacuated' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
One of the biggest guns captured in the War. Captured by Australians, 15″ destroyed before Fritz evacuated (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Probably the reverse angle of the same gun in the photograph above

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Big 15" Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Big 15″ Gun Emplacement – Germans destroyed same when compelled to Evacuate. Photo shows the muzzle of this particular Pea Shooter (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Armoured cars' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Armoured cars held up for a time on the main Harbonnieres Road, by fallen trees
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: Armoured cars (text on back of print)

 

 

“An armoured car, carrying a French flag, moving up the main Amiens Road from Warfusee Abancourt during the advance of the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. The two soldiers on the right are unidentified.”

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

This appears to be an Austin 1918 pattern car, probably belonging to the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion of the Tank Corps. This unit was in action in France from March of 1918. The flag is not a French Tricolor, but rather a two-colour signal flag – probably red and white.

For more information on the Austin Armoured Car please see the Wikipedia website

 

The last, and probably most familiar vehicle in the Austin line up, the Austin 3rd Series (Improved)/4th Series Armoured Car, yet again closely followed upon it’s immediate precursor, the Austin 3rd Series car. And like all its predecessors, including the “older” Austin 1st Series, and Austin 2nd Series Armoured Cars, it too was built for use by Russian forces. However, due to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, most sources state that none of the 4th Series vehicles were used by the Russians*. The approximately 70 completed and subsequently built cars were acquired by the British Army and used fairly successfully by them, most notably by the 17th Battalion Tank Corps in 1918.

The 4th Series cars are fairly similar to the 3rd Series vehicles, except for a very significant change, the fitting of a strengthened suspension, which included dual rear wheels. The new suspension would aid the cars in improving their mobility, although never to a point of them being considered especially agile. In addition, some cars used in the later stage of the war / post-war were mounted with solid disc wheels. Finally, the 4th Series vehicles were also armed with British weapons instead of the Maxim machine guns favoured by the Russians. Sources state that both .303 Vickers and .303 Hotchkiss machine guns were mounted at various times.

Anonymous text. “Austin 3rd (Improved)/4th Series Armored Car,” on the War Wheels website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) 'Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter' July 1863 (detail)

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter (detail)
July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882) '[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."]' July 1863

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
[Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Dead Confederate sharpshooter in “The devil’s den”]
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, July 1863

July 1863

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (recto)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Dead Fritz Machine Gunner and Gun 8 August 18 (verso)
8 August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne (recto)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (text on back of print)

 

 

The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne. Identified, left to right: 21492 Corporal J. F. Yates MM (partially obscured by the gun); 21437 Bombardier John Thomas Wharton MM (shovelling); 37417 Gunner (Gnr) Charles Edward Harnett (back to camera); 24557 Gnr C. F. H. Ipsen (looking up); 23094 Gnr John Southwell (extreme right foreground); 32887 Gnr Charles Edward Dun (in the background between Harnett and Ipsen); 23073 Gnr A. McDonald (directly behind Ipsen); 32962 Gnr Stockley (behind McDonald).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Oline] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 108th Howitzer Battery in action at Bray using 4.5 inch Mk I Howitzers. The troops of the 3rd Australian Division whom the Battery was supporting were then engaged beyond Suzanne' 26th August 1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A row of Howitzers of the 105th Battery behind a cut bank rear Bray (verso)
26th August 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

QF 4.5-inch howitzer

The Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer was the standard British Empire field (or ‘light’) howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5-inch howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in the field by British forces in early 1942. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.

The QF 4.5-inch (110 mm) howitzer was used by British and Commonwealth forces in most theatres, by Russia and by British troops in Russia in 1919. Its calibre (114 mm) and hence shell weight were greater than those of the equivalent German field howitzer (105 mm); France did not have an equivalent. In the Second World War it equipped some units of the BEF and British, Australian, New Zealand and South African batteries in East Africa and the Middle and Far East.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the gun please see the website

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

 

 

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II

British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mk II. A breech-loading artillery piece fitted with a sliding breech block, axial recoil system, splinter-proof shield, and steel box carriage. The gun is fitted with two wooden spoked ‘Wheels 2nd Class ‘C’ No 45′, and is equipped with drag ropes, spare shovels, rammer, and leather sight and tool boxes. …

 

History / Summary

The QF [Quick Fire] 4.5 inch howitzer was initially brought into service in 1909. The Mark II was introduced in 1917, rectifying a breechblock design defect in the earlier Mark I. The gun was capable of firing a 16 kilogram shell to a range of almost 7 kilometres, however it was its capacity to fire at elevations of up to 45 degrees that made the weapon so effective. The high elevation allowed the gun to lob shells almost vertically into areas protected by traditional fortifications. The heavier 4.5 inch high explosive shell was found to be far more effective than the 18 pounder in damaging enemy parapets and trenches and thus found increasing use for this purpose.

Over 3,300 4.5 inch howitzers were manufactured during the First World War. The Mark II design remained in service into the Second World War when they were finally replaced by the QF 25-Pounder.

Text and photograph from the Australian War Memorial website [Online] Cited 26/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (recto)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) '4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers' 1917-1918 (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
4th Division Sports Races. Note the Book Makers (verso)
1917-1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (recto)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (recto)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin

The Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin was a battle on the Western Front during World War I. As part of the Allied Hundred Days Offensive on the Western Front in the late summer of 1918, the Australian Corps crossed the Somme River on the night of 31 August and broke the German lines at Mont Saint-Quentin and Péronne. The British Fourth Army’s commander, General Henry Rawlinson, described the Australian advances of 31 August – 4 September as the greatest military achievement of the war. During the battle Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont Saint-Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.

 

Battle

The offensive was planned by General John Monash; Monash planned a high-risk frontal assault which required the Australian 2nd Division to cross a series of marshes to attack the heights. This plan failed when the assaulting troops could not cross the marshes. After this initial setback, Monash manoeuvred his divisions in the only free manoeuvre battle of any consequence undertaken by the Australians on the Western Front.

Australians of the 2nd Division crossed to the north bank of the Somme River on the evening of 30 August. At 5 am on 31 August, supported by artillery, two significantly undermanned Australian battalions charged up Mont St Quentin, ordered by Monash to “scream like bushrangers”. The Germans quickly surrendered and the Australians continued to the main German trench-line. In the rear, other Australians crossed the Somme by a bridge which Australian engineers had saved and repaired. The Australians were unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and German reserves regained the crest. However, the Australians held on just below the summit and next day it was recaptured and firmly held. On that day also, 1 September, Australian forces broke into Péronne and took most of the town. The next day it completely fell into Australian hands. In three days the Australians endured 3,000 casualties but ensured a general German withdrawal eastwards back to the Hindenburg Line.

 

Aftermath

Looking back after the event, Monash accounted for the success by the wonderful gallantry of the men, the rapidity with which the plan was carried out, and the sheer daring of the attempt. In his Australian Victories in France, Monash pays tribute to the commander of the 2nd Division, Major-General Charles Rosenthal, who was in charge of the operation. But Monash and his staff were responsible for the conception of the project and the working out of the plans.

The Allied victory at the Battle of Mont Saint Quentin dealt a strong blow to five German divisions, including the elite 2nd Guards Division. As the position overlooked much of the terrain east of Mont St. Quentin, it guaranteed that the Germans would not be able to stop the allies west of the Hindenburg Line (the same position from which the Germans had launched their offensive in the spring). A total of 2,600 prisoners were taken at a cost of slightly over 3,000 casualties.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'The 27th and 28th Btn's having a rest and meal behind the banks before "going in" at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918' (verso)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
The 27th and 28th Btn’s having a rest and meal behind the banks before “going in” at Mt St Quentin Sept 1, 1918 (verso)
September 1, 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'St Quentin Canal' 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
St Quentin Canal
1918
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal

The Battle of St. Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I that began on 29 September 1918 and involved British, Australian and American forces operating as part of the British Fourth Army under the overall command of General Sir Henry Rawlinson. Further north, part of the British Third Army also supported the attack. South of the Fourth Army’s 19 km (12 mi) front, the French First Army launched a coordinated attack on a 9.5 km (6 mi) front. The objective was to break through one of the most heavily defended stretches of the German Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line), which in this sector used the St Quentin Canal as part of its defences. The assault achieved its objectives (though not according to the planned timetable), resulting in the first full breach of the Hindenburg Line, in the face of heavy German resistance. In concert with other attacks of the Grand Offensive along the length of the line, Allied success convinced the German high command that there was little hope of an ultimate German victory.

Text from the Wikipedia website – for more information on the battle please see the website

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal' 25 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal
25 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Lawsons title: No 18 Tank (no text on back of print)

This is a British Mark IV tank (female)

 

 

A tank put out of action when crossing a deep communication trench running from a dugout near the St Quentin Canal to the main Hindenburg Line. Land mines, scattered about the Hindenburg trenches and the specially directed anti-tank gun fire caused heavy tank casualties. Notice the crew entry doors beneath the side sponsons.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

British Mk IV tank

The Mark IV (pronounced Mark four) was a British tank of the First World War. Introduced in 1917, it benefited from significant developments of the Mark I tank (the intervening designs being small batches used for training). The main improvements were in armour, the re-siting of the fuel tank and ease of transport. A total of 1,220 Mk IV were built: 420 “Males”, 595 “Females” and 205 Tank Tenders (unarmed vehicles used to carry supplies), which made it the most numerous British tank of the war. The Mark IV was first used in mid 1917 at the Battle of Messines Ridge. It remained in British service until the end of the war, and a small number served briefly with other combatants afterwards.

The “Male” tank was a category of tank prevalent in World War I. As opposed to the five machine guns of the “Female” version of the Mark I tank, the male version of the Mark I had a QF 6 pounder 6 cwt Hotchkiss and three machine guns.

 

Production

The Mark IV was built by six manufacturers: Metropolitan (the majority builder), Fosters of Lincoln, Armstrong-Whitworth, Coventry Ordnance Works, William Beardmore & Company and Mirrlees, Watson & Co., with the main production being in 1917. The first order was placed for 1,000 tanks with Metropolitan in August 1916. It was then cancelled, reinstated and then modified between August and December 1916. The other manufacturers, contracted for no more than 100 tanks each, were largely immune to the conflict between Stern and the War Office.

 

Service

The Mark IV was first used in large numbers on 7 June 1917, during the British assault on Messines Ridge. Crossing dry but heavily cratered terrain, many of the 60-plus Mark IVs lagged behind the infantry, but several made important contributions to the battle. By comparison, at the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) from 31 July, where the preliminary 24-day long barrage had destroyed all drainage and heavy rain had soaked the field, the tanks found it heavy going and contributed little; those that sank into the swampy ground were immobilised and became easy targets for enemy artillery.

Nearly 460 Mark IV tanks were used during the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, showing that a large concentration of tanks could quickly overcome even the most sophisticated trench systems.

In the aftermath of the German spring offensive on the Western Front, the first tank-to-tank battle was between Mk IV tanks and German A7Vs in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

About 40 captured Mark IVs were employed by the Germans as Beutepanzerwagen (the German word Beute means “loot” or “booty”) with a crew of 12. These formed four tank companies from December 1917. Some of these had their six pounders replaced by a German equivalent.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Peter Trimming. '1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England' 19 March 2013

 

Peter Trimming
1917 British Mark IV tank (female) on display in Ashford, Kent, England
19 March 2013
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)?
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Diggers taking a break (no text on back of print)

 

 

The Australian War Memorial website notes that this photograph is by George Hubert Wilkins.

A group from the 38th Battalion, supporting the 27th US Division in the attack on the Hindenburg Line, pause after being held up by heavy enemy machine gun fire, 29 September 1918.

 

Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm, in which they were held by machine gun fire during the attack on the Hindenburg Line, near Bony. Identified, left to right: 5918 Private (Pte) Binion; 967 Sergeant A. E. Pegler MM; 3020 Corporal H. Amiet MM; Captain C. H. Peters MC; unidentified soldier (almost completely obscured by Buckland); 763 Company Sergeant Major (CSM) R. J. Buckland MM (smoking a pipe); 6217 Pte G. Bain.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm' 29 September 1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Members of the 38th Battalion in Dog Trench near Guillemont Farm (detail)
29 September 1918
Gelatin silver print

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele
1917
Gelatin silver print

Lawsons title: Rest after battle (no text on back of print)

 

 

A communication trench previously used by the Australian troops at Westhoek Ridge, in the Ypres section, during the attack of the 2nd Division further forward, near Passchendaele Ridge. Two unidentified members of the 2nd Division are seen watching the shellfire (not in view).

Text from the Australian War Memorial website Nd [Online] Cited 27/03/2022

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Rest after battle' 1917-1918 (detail)

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Water filled trench, Passchendaele (detail)
1917
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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20
Mar
22

Exhibition: ‘Birdlike’ by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 2nd April 2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Birdlike' by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Birdlike by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne showing at left, Ground dweller 4, 2020-2021 (see below)
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

 

A quick text today as I am very sick with bronchitis and not feeling very well.

I have always liked Ferran’s performative creations starting with her body of work titled Box of Birds (2013) followed by Align (2015); Flying Colour (2016); Open Book (2018); White Against Red (2018); and now her most recent series, Birdlike (2020-2022)

While conceptually based (as with much contemporary photography), her bodies of work have an elemental quality to them that keeps them grounded and present even as they reference a historical past, a “felt” (pardon the pun since Ferran uses felt material) response to a present day conundrum.

The new work Birdlike “continues the artist’s practice of photographing female performers as they improvise with lengths of coloured felt … [which] allows for complex and nuanced interpretations” in response to the initial proposition, in this case Ferran’s wish “to summon the return of a small ground-dwelling bird, the Plains wanderer, Pedionomus torquatus, to a place that it vanished from long ago.”

These birds “are surprisingly distinct from any other species on the planet, they are the last family on their evolutionary line,” the only representative of family Pedionomidae and genus Pedionomus. They are threatened by agricultural practices such as cropping and grazing, and so they are at risk of habitat loss, as well as other threats such as flooding, feral predators, pesticide use and their small population size. With their ground-nesting habits, poor flying ability, and the tendency to run rather than fly from predators, the birds become easy prey for the fox. Now listed as a critically endangered species the bird makes a haunting return, a form of speculative reappearance as Ferran puts it, to a place in which it was once common – that of Wiradjuri country, near Narrandera NSW.

These beautiful, conceptual, improvised photographs are not only about the here and now, but are about present and past (a longing for a quixotic past?), about presence and absence… and about death and loss. Every thing contemporary photography is good at – that is, unpicking the threads of history and reassembling them – is here grounded “in the flatness of the landscape, the vastness of the sky and the colours of the lengths of felt the performer is manipulating.” In other words, grounded in light, colour and the red soil of the Australian landscape these re-imagined birds are captured in a fantastical performance / sublime dance (of death).

I love these photographs. They possess a sublime mystery that makes me stop and question how little the human race has learnt and how much we have lost. With species extinction, climate change and ocean pollution ongoing, this is only the beginning of the desecration of Mother Earth.

Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis (all things change, and we change with them).

But not necessarily for the better.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Sutton Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All images © the artist and Sutton Gallery. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Birdlike' by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Birdlike by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne showing at left, Ground dweller 4, 2020-2021 (see below)
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Birdlike' by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Birdlike by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne showing at left, Plains wanderer 1; and at right, Plains wanderer 3 both 2020-2021 (see below)
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Birdlike' by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Birdlike by Anne Ferran at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne showing at left, Field haunter 1, Field haunter 3, and Field haunter 2 all 2020-2021 (see below); and at right, Hiding 1 2020-2021 (see below)
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Field haunter 1' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Field haunter 1
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Field haunter 2' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Field haunter 2
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Field haunter 3' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Field haunter 3
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

 

In Birdlike I aimed to summon the return of a small ground-dwelling bird, the Plains wanderer, Pedionomus torquatus, to a place that it vanished from long ago. Once common over vast areas of southern NSW and Victoria, its existence is now threatened, and birdwatchers like me will go to great lengths to see it just once in their lives. In these photographs, made on Wiradjuri country, near Narrandera NSW, the Plains wanderer makes a form of speculative reappearance, via signs as indirect as the flatness of the landscape, the vastness of the sky and the colours of the lengths of felt the performer is manipulating.

I came to this way of working a few years ago. Its two key components are my collaboration with a performer – here it is Kirsten Packham – and her improvisations with lengths of dyed and painted felt. I choose the performer carefully, as so much depends on her sensitivity to her surroundings and her ability to transmit it through her physical body. With its inherent density, softness and weight, the felt can amplify and enhance her movements and gestures, while exerting a strong presence of its own. I never know what will emerge from these sessions, only that it will be something new, arising out of that moment, that performance and that situation.

Until now I have preferred to work in the familiar environment of a photographic studio. Decamping to the landscape introduced many small and some not-so-small considerations: the texture of the ground underfoot, the ever-changing effects of early morning or late afternoon light, whether it was hot, cold or blowing a gale at any one moment. Small trees crept into the frame and started acting like performers themselves. As the photographs began to accumulate, I thought I could see an out-of-place, almost alien quality emerging. This was unexpected, but on reflection it seems consistent with the displacements that have already happened in this place, as well as with those others that may come in the future.

~ Anne Ferran, 2022

 

Each image is available in two sizes: 65 x 50cm Ed. of 5 + 2APs and 144 x 104cm Ed. of 3 + 2APs

Performer: Kirsten Packham
Lighting: Frances Mocnik
Assistant: Brittany Hefren

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW, and the Cad Factory, Narrandera.

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Ground dweller 1' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Ground dweller 1
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Ground dweller 2' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Ground dweller 2
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Ground dweller 3' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Ground dweller 3
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Ground dweller 4' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Ground dweller 4
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Hiding 1' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Hiding 1
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Hiding 2' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Hiding 2
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Hiding 3' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Hiding 3
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Plains wanderer 1' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Plains wanderer 1
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Plains wanderer 2' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Plains wanderer 2
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949) 'Plains wanderer 3' 2020-2021

 

Anne Ferran (Australian, b. 1949)
Plains wanderer 3
2020-2021
Pigment print on cotton rag paper
© the artist and Sutton Gallery

 

 

Sutton Gallery
254 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy 3065
Victoria, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9416 0727

Gallery hours:
Wednesday – Saturday
11am – 5pm, or by appointment

Sutton Gallery website

Anne Ferran website

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13
Feb
22

Review: ‘Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th October 2021 – 20th February 2022

 

Greg Weight. 'Rosalie Gascoigne' (detail) 1993 and Jules Boag. 'Portrait of Lorraine Connelly-Northey' (detail) Nd

 

Image left: Greg Weight
Rosalie Gascoigne (detail)
1993
Gelatin silver photograph on paper
Image: 45.5 x 35.6cm
Sheet: 50.4 x 40.4cm
National Portrait Gallery, Australia
Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
© Gregory Weight/Copyright Agency, 2021

Image right: Jules Boag
Portrait of Lorraine Connelly-Northey (detail)
Courtesy of Jules Boag
© Jules Boag

 

 

Synergy. Now’s there’s an interesting word. It means “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organisations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” It derives from mid 19th century: from Greek sunergos ‘working together’, from sun- ‘together’ + ergon ‘work’. Thus, this glorious exhibition brings together two artists metaphorically “working together” under the Australian sun… even as they are separated by culture, location, time and space.

Their work comes together in a confluence of ideas of approximately equal width – one grounded in stories of family and Country thousands of years old, the artist investigating post-colonial settlement and the industrial world and interpreting Australian Indigenous objects of ritual and culture; the other not so much grounded but playing with Western ideas of pattern and randomness, belonging, and the metaphysical space of the landscape of the Monaro, in the southwest of New South Wales. Both points of view are equally valid and have important things to say about our various relationships to the land (both Indigenous and colonial) and the “creation” of a contemporary Australian national identity.

Both artists use found objects in their work, but as Russell-Cook points out, “I think that what unites the two artists is the shared materials they use, but not a ‘shared-use of materials.’ They are both fascinated by the artistic possibilities of found objects, but they use those materials to tell contrasting stories.” Connelly-Northey uses her experience of living on Country and her gleaning of discarded objects in Country to gather up the threads of her multiple heritages and Aboriginal custodianship of the land to picture – through the merging of organic and inorganic forms – the disenfranchisement of her people but also to celebrate their deep roots in Country. Gascoigne on the other hand is the more ethereal of the two artists, concerned as she is with light, land, spirit of place and the rightness of materials being used. Hers is a very structured and formal art practice grounded in her training in the Japanese art of ikebana and her understanding of Minimalism. Sympathetically, through their individual creativity both artists transmute (to change in form, nature, or substance) the reality of the materials they work with, the raw material of experience transmuted into stories. As Rozentals and Russell-Cook observe, “Both Connelly-Northey and Gascoigne’s work is defined by, and yet transcends, its sense of materiality.”

Two things jar slightly. Connelly-Northey is ‘a bit anxious’ that her Indigenous originality won’t be recognised and that “I’ve worked too hard for people to think I borrowed it all from Rosalie. Our use of corrugated iron is the only thing we have in common.”

Connelly-Northey can have no fear that her Indigenous originality won’t be recognised because every pore of her strong work speaks to her cultural being. Her spiky, brittly astringent, barbed and feathered works take you to Country, posing the viewer uncomfortable questions about “soft” assertions of history and the hard reality of contemporary Indigenous life: metal as string, desecration of sacred sights, barbed wire handles, “hunters and gatherers whose remains have been upturned by settled Australian societies.” She weaves her stories well.

If the second statement has not been taken out of context, it shows a heap of unnecessary defensive aggression by Connelly-Northey towards Gascoigne’s work. It’s a silly, uninformed statement which hints at a lack of confidence in the strength of her own work. Patently, their use of corrugated iron is not the only thing they have in common.

Both speak towards a love of the Australian land whether from an ancient Aboriginal custodianship perspective or from a Western colonial perspective. Both use scavenging, gathering and gleaning in order to recycle the refuse of society in their art making, Connelly-Northey using weaving to bring together that which is disparate; Gascoigne assembling her formal compositions with an attention to order and randomness. Both artists love to move through the space and time of the land, exploring its idiosyncrasies, “disassociating objects from their original function via a system of obsessive collecting and gathering, while simultaneously reflecting their individual experiences of being immersed in the bush environment.” As Rozentals and Russell-Cook comment, “Despite their careers having been separated by time, and coming from vastly different backgrounds, in both artists we see a singular vision that is immediately recognisable, and unmistakably them. And yet there is a sympathetic connection between their practices that is undeniable.”

Conjoined by more than corrugated iron, more than land, air and clan, their common union is the journey of two creative souls on that golden path of life and the connection of those souls to the cosmos.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All of the images unless otherwise stated are by Marcus Bunyan. © Marcus Bunyan, the artists and the National Gallery of Victoria. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Although they are often compared, Gascoigne and Connelly-Northey are separated conceptually and chronologically. For a start, despite being two Australian women artists working with landscape, they never met. This fact is less surprising when one remembers that Connelly-Northey’s practice only matured towards the later stages of Gascoigne’s life. Gascoigne came to prominence late and rapidly, with her first exhibition in 1974, when she was fifty-seven years old, and it was only eight years later that she represented Australia at the Venice Biennale. Connelly-Northey started exhibiting seriously in the mid-nineties, shortly before Gascoigne passed away in 1999. However, Connelly-Northey has herself commented on a nuanced relationship to the historical comparison with Gascoigne, pointing out in a recent conversation with Jeremy Eccles that “I’ve worked too hard for people to think I borrowed it all from Rosalie. Our use of corrugated iron is the only thing we have in common.” In some ways, then, the fact they never met may have been fortuitous, with both artists driven to probe their subject matter in distinct and complete ways. …

Surrounding built and natural environments are a recurring prompt for Connelly-Northey, who often merges organic and inorganic forms. She investigates the intricate dilemmas and complexities that arise when two cultures meet. Co-curator Myles Russell-Cook explains that the artist “is using her work to explore the connection between her multiple heritages, as well as her experience living on Country. Take her work On Country, 2017; in that installation, Connelly-Northey explores the relationship between the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga, depicting the river a living being, which she imagines as a snake repurposed out of chicken wire and rusted and industrial scrap metal. It’s a dioramic representation of the landscape, but it is also so embedded with references to Aboriginal custodianship of Country.” As a result, Russell-Cook argues, Connelly-Northey proposes “a really different way of being in Australian landscape.”

Beyond these conceptual and chronological differences, however, Russell-Cook points out that “I think that what unites the two artists is the shared materials they use, but not a ‘shared-use of materials.’ They are both fascinated by the artistic possibilities of found objects, but they use those materials to tell contrasting stories.” As Rozentals notes, for Gascoigne, “the objects had to be just right – what she collected, for instance, with shells. There could be no cracks and they had to be of a particular colour and a particular shine; she would collect the feathers of different species of birds from particular locations.” For Russell-Cook, “At the heart of what Connelly-Northey does, is the act of cleaning up Country: going out and collecting up bits of discarded and refuse machinery, and then working with that to create customary forms. She makes a lot of possum-skin cloaks, narrbong-galang, which are a type of string bag, as well as koolimans (coolamons), lap-laps, and other types of cultural objects … she repurposes them to create a juxtaposition between cultural memories.”

.
Extract from Rose Vickers. “Found and Gathered: Lorraine Connelly-Northey and Rosalie Gascoigne,” in Artist Profile, Issue 57, 2021 [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Tom Ross NGV

 

'Found and Gathered' title wall text

 

Wall text

 

Entrance to the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Entrance to the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Lap Lap' (various numbers) 2011 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Lap Lap (various numbers) (installation views)
2011
Mixed media
Murray Art Museum Albury, commissioned 2011
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Animal skins and woven plant fibres are preferred natural resources for making cloaks, belts, skirts and lap laps. Worn by both males and females, lap laps were created for a simple covering of the groin. Also considered a body adornment, the wearing of a lap lap has different significance between Nations. Connelly-Northey constructed these lap laps from hard and harsh materials, such as rusted industrial objects including an axe head, a cut-down rabbit trap, barbed fencing wire along with copper sheeting. Metaphorically, Connelly-Northey’s lap laps both expose and draw attention to the difficult and ‘barbed’ sexual relations thats existed between Aboriginal women and settlers, post-European arrival.

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Step through' (1977 - c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Step through' (1977 - c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Step through (1977 – c. 1979-1980) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Step through' 1977 - c. 1979-1980 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Step through (installation view)
1977 – c. 1979-1980
Linoleum on plywood on wood
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In 1977, Rosalie Gascoigne commenced making sculptures out of discarded linoleum, which she sourced primarily from rubbish dumps. Step through features torn pieces of floral linoleum glued to plywood which are mounted on wooden blocks, and she used a jigsaw to cut around the shapes. Although linoleum is associated with domestic interiors, for Gascoigne it was about outdoor spaces. This work references untidy vacant blocks in the city, which one might ‘step-through’ as a short cut. Gascoigne’s floor-based works are intended to be experienced from all angles, and the arrangement of the blocks at different heights creates a rhythm, drawing the eyes to wander up and across the installation.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Smoko' 1984 (installation view)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Smoko' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Smoko (installation views)
1984
Weathered wood, dried grass (possibly African lovegrass, Eragrostis curvula)
Private collection, Tasmania
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Pieces to walk around' (1981, foreground) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Pieces to walk around' (1981, foreground) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Pieces to walk around (1981, foreground) at the exhibition Found and Gathered at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Pieces to walk around' 1981 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Pieces to walk around (installation view detail)
1981
Saffron thistle sticks (Carthamus lanatus)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘This is a piece for walking around and contemplating. It is about being in the country with its shifting light and shades of grey, its casualness and it prodigality. The viewer’s response to the landscape may differ from mine, but I hope this picture will convey some sense of the countryside that produced it: and that an extra turn or two around the work will induce in the viewer the liberating feeling of being in the open country.’ ~ Rosalie Gascoigne, 1981

 

Piece to Walk Around is a microcosm of the landscape of the Monaro, in the southwest of New South Wales, where Rosalie Gascoigne lived from 1943. This environment provided the experiences and the materials that shaped her work, found on her journeys through it. Piece to Walk Around refers directly to the experience of moving through the Australian landscape, titled to draw attention to the changing visual effects as one circles the work and the shifting play of light on the natural material.

Comprised of a patchwork of bundles of saffron thistle stalks arranged in 20 squares lying on the floor in alternating directions, it resembles the undulating countryside, the ordering of agriculture and industry, and the mottled effects of light and shadow upon it. The work conveys a sense of the infinite expansiveness and liberation experienced in the country, as manifested in the grid’s open-ended structure to which additional bundles of thistles could theoretically be added or subtracted.

Gascoigne’s work from the early-1980s reveal a sophisticated aesthetic – an engagement with Minimalism’s orderliness and pre-occupation with the grid, and an almost Japanese mixture of formal composition and attention to nature. It was this sense of ‘order with randomness’ which Gascoigne recognised as an essential feature of the Monaro-Canberra region, and which resonates in the ‘careful-careless’ effect of this assemblage. Created only seven years after her first solo show in 1974, this work has a remarkable maturity and balance, achieved through a lifetime of looking at the landscape.

Anonymous text from the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia website Nd [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Takeover bid' 1981 (installation view)

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Takeover bid (installation view)
1981
Found window frames, thistle stems
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Takeover bid' 1981 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Takeover bid (installation view detail)
1981
Found window frames, thistle stems
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Balance' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Balance (installation view)
1984
Weathered plywood
Collection of Justin Miller, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Balance' 1984 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Balance (installation view detail)
1984
Weathered plywood
Collection of Justin Miller, Sydney
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Graven image' 1982 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Graven image (installation view)
1982
Weathered wood and plywood
Private collection, Canberra
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne perceived wood as being distinctly different to the manufactured materials she incorporated in her art, such as tin, aluminium and iron. Wood, like the shells, dried grasses and plants she also worked with across her career, came from nature. Gascoigne gathered wood that had been weathered, including window frames and fence palings, preferring pieces that had been bleached by the sun until they were almost grey in colour. Gascoigne would use wood either as the main component of a composition, or as the backing from another work.

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne's 'Feathered Fence' (1978-1979, foreground) with 'Winter paddock' (1984, back left) and 'Afternoon' (1996, back right) at the exhibition 'Found and Gathered' at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Rosalie Gascoigne’s Feathered Fence (1978-1979, foreground) with Winter paddock (1984, back left) and Afternoon (1996, back right) at the exhibition ‘Found and Gathered’ at The Ian Potter Centre NGV Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Feathered fence' 1978-1979 (installation view detail)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Feathered fence' 1978-1979 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Feathered fence (installation view details)
1978-1979
Swan (Cygnus atratus) feathers, galvanised wire mesh, metal win nuts, synthetic polymer paint on wood
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist, 1994
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996 (installation view)

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Afternoon (installation views)
1996
Painted weathered plywood on backing boards
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

One of Rosalie Gascoigne’s late works, Afternoon, created for the exhibition In Place (Out of Time), held at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, comprises twenty-seven panels of weathered plywood organised in a grid-like configuration. Looking out from her vantage point at the top of Mount Stromlo across the countryside, Gascoigne was in awe of the view, the vast sky, and te sense of emptiness. The sections of lights applied white paint and areas of exposed timer of Afternoon are suggestive of passing clouds, and communicates her experiences and enduring recollections of being in the landscape.

 

As perhaps the most archetypal form of modernist abstraction, the grid has been employed as a formal, compositional device in countless artworks over the past century.

In ‘Grids’ (1979), Rosalind Krauss’ seminal essay on the subject, she describes this structural device as: ‘[f]lattened, geometricized, ordered, it is antinatural, antimimetic, antireal. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature’.(1) However, for Rosalie Gascoigne, the grid was employed as a compositional method in order to generate highly personal and experiential evocations of natural phenomena in ways which transcended the more rigid, impersonal qualities associated with its geometry.

In one of her late works entitled Afternoon (1996), Gascoigne assembled 27 individual panels of found painted timber in roughly similar sizes in a grid-like formation. At a surface level the serial repetition of components arranged and balanced according to vertical and horizontal axes corresponds to a reductive Minimalist sensibility. However, it is the heavily weathered timber with its faded white paint which infuses the work with a resonant and suggestive force. As the artist traversed the open countryside she deliberately sought out materials that she felt were ‘invested with the spirit of the place’ and capable of recalling ‘the feeling of an actual moment in the landscape’.(2) In this light, the vital materiality of the reclaimed painted timber is not only inscribed with the effects of its prolonged exposure to the elements, but it also speaks directly to Gascoigne’s deep and abiding memories of her experiences in the landscape. In Afternoon, the richly allusive quality of the individual boards is suggestive of passing clouds, evoking the ephemeral and transitory phenomena of nature in continuous metamorphosis. Contemplated as a unified pictorial whole, this humble assemblage of discarded and deteriorating matter assumes a metaphysical dimension bordering on the ineffable, one which resoundingly accords with the artist’s desire to ‘capture the “nothingness” of the countryside, those wide open spaces … the great Unsaid … the silence that often only visual beauty transcends’.(3)

 

Further Information

  1. Rosalind Krauss, ‘Grids’, October, Vol. 9, Summer, 1979, p. 50.
  2. Quoted in Deborah Edwards, Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape, (exh. cat.), Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, p. 8.
  3. Ibid, p. 16.

.
Anonymous text. “Rosalie Gascoigne,” on the Culture Victoria website Nd [Online] Cited 01/02/2022

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Afternoon' 1996

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Afternoon
1996
Painted weathered plywood on backing boards
TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville
Gift of Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AC

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Winter paddock' 1984 (installation view)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Winter paddock (installation view)
1984
Weathered and painted wood, painted plywood, silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) feathers
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Acquired 1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999) 'Winter paddock' 1984 (installation view detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (Australian born New Zealand, 1917-1999)
Winter paddock (installation view detail)
1984
Weathered and painted wood, painted plywood, silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae) feathers
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Acquired 1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey brings attention to the shared materiality at the heart of the practices of Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) and Lorraine Connelly-Northey (b. 1962). Both artists are known for their transformative use of found and discarded objects to create works of art that challenge our understanding of the landscape, and Country.

New Zealand–born Rosalie Gascoigne is recognised for her textural works assembled from items that she had collected, including corrugated iron, feathers, wood and wire, as well as her distinctive wall-mounted pieces formed from retro-reflective road signs and soft-drink cases. Gascoigne moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory, a remote community on the outskirts of Canberra in 1943. Describing the area as being ‘all air, all light, all space, all understatement’, the surrounding region where Gascoigne regularly searched for materials greatly inspired her artistic practice. Her first exhibition was held in 1974 when she was 57 years old, and in 1982, Gascoigne was selected as the inaugural female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Lorraine Connelly-Northey was born and raised at Swan Hill in western Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people. Much of her work is inspired by her maternal Waradgerie (also known as Wiradjuri) heritage. Connelly-Northey gathers and uses materials often associated with European settlement and industrialisation, and repurposes them into sculptural works that reference traditional weaving techniques and Indigenous cultural objects. Through her work, Connelly-Northey explores the relationship between European and Indigenous ways of being and draws attention to the dynamic and resilient ways that Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, custodians of Country.

Through a major display of more than 75 wall-based and sculptural works, Found and Gathered highlights each artist’s unique and significant place within Australian art, while also illuminating the sympathetic relationships between their works. Continuing the popular series of paired exhibitions hosted by NGV, this is the first exhibition in this series focused on the work of two women.

Held at The Ian Potter: NGV Australia, this exhibition includes works by both artists held in the NGV Collection as well as works from major public institutions and private collections around Australia.

Text from the NGV Australia website

 

'Found and Gathered' wall text

 

Wall text

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Magpie bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Magpie bag (installation view)
2002
From the Koolimans and String Bags series
Wire mesh, magpie feathers
27.8 × 33.5 × 10.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Pelican bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Pelican bag (installation view)
2002
From the Koolimans and String Bags series
Wire, pelican feathers
31.4 × 29.7 × 10.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire mesh, feathers
26.5 × 10.5 × 11.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh, emu feathers
17.8 × 8.7 × 8.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey reproduces the form of traditional cultural objects with a range of gathered materials found on the side of the road, in illegal rubbish dumps, or decaying on farms. As she explains: ‘We Aboriginal people only take what we need when we need it. I do a lot of travelling to spot something and it can take up a lot of time. The beauty is that I always work from leftovers and if I don’t use a material, I take it back. Also, in the sculpting process, I try to not alter the material too much’.

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire mesh, echidna quills
33.0 × 15.3 × 12.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Kooliman 2' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Kooliman 2 (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
8.5 × 29.7 × 19.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'String bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
String bag (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
Wire, wire mesh, feathers
23.5 × 16.4 × 8.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire, wire mesh
30.7 × 14.4 × 4.7cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Driftwood bag' 2002 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Driftwood bag (installation view)
2002
from the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
Wire, wire mesh, driftwood
15.4 × 26.5 × 7.3cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Narrbong (String bag)' 2005 (installation view)

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (String bag) (installation view)
2005
Wire
15.9 × 22.5 × 9.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and Patrons of Indigenous Art, 2005
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962) 'Kooliman 1' 2002

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Kooliman 1
2002
From the Koolimans and string bags series 2002
16.5 × 18.0 × 14.7cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Supporters and patrons of Indigenous Art, 2003
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Photo: NGV

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962). 'Narrbong (Container)' 2005

 

Lorraine Connelly-Northey (Australian / Waradgerie, b. 1962)
Narrbong (Container)
2005
Iron, emu feathers
30.5 × 34 × 35.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Robert Cirelli, through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2019
Photo: NGV

 

 

Found and Gathered

By Beckett Rozentals and Myles Russell-Cook

Found and Gathered: Rosalie Gascoigne | Lorraine Connelly-Northey brings to attention the work of two artists, both who are well known for their transformative use of found and discarded objects to create works of art. Lorraine Connelly-Northey is a contemporary artist and Waradgerie (Wiradjuri) woman living on Wamba Wamba Country. Rosalie Gascoigne was born in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and moved to Mount Stromlo Observatory, a remote community in the Australia Capital Territory on the lands of Ngunawal people, in 1943. Both are celebrated as two of Australia