Archive for the 'painting' Category

10
Dec
22

Exhibition: ‘The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930’ at Wrightwood 659, Chicago

Exhibition dates: 1st October – 17th December 2022

Curators: Jonathan D. Katz, Curator and Johnny Willis, Associate Curator

 

 

Roberto Montenegro (Mexican, 1885-1968) 'Retrato de un anticuario o Retrato de Chucho Reyes y autorretrato' 1026

 

Roberto Montenegro (Mexican, 1885-1968)
Retrato de un anticuario o Retrato de Chucho Reyes y autorretrato
Portrait of an antiquarian or Portrait of Chucho Reyes and self-portrait

1926
Oil on canvas
40.4 x 40.4 in (unframed), 41.7 x 41.6 x 1.6 in (framed)
Colección Pérez Simón, Mexico, © Arturo Piera

 

 

Short and sweet…

I believe that any artist that lives at the edge of desire, of creativity, of individuality, exploration and feeling – in seeing the world from different points of view – pushes the boundaries of what the conservative mass of humanity finds acceptable.

Defying the taboo is only possible because the taboo exists in the first place. The taboo against sensuality, eroticism and pleasure can only be broken by approaching those ecstatic and liminal spaces that lead to other states of consciousness, by being attentive to the dropping away of awareness so that we avoid the frequency of common intensities, instead illuminating spaces and languages where new cultural symbols and meanings can emerge. This is what artists and people of difference do: we approach the ‘Thing Itself’. We live on the edge of ecstasy, oblivion and revelation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. I have added bibliographic information to the posting where possible.

.
Many thankx to Wrightwood 659 for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930 takes as its starting point the year 1869, when the word “homosexual” was first coined in Europe, inaugurating the idea of same-sex desire as the basis for a new identity category. On view will be more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and film clips – drawn from public and private collections around the globe and including a number of national treasures which have never before been allowed to travel outside their countries. This groundbreaking exhibition offers the first multi-medium survey of the very first self-consciously queer art, exploring what the “first homosexuals” understood themselves to be, how dominant culture, in turn, understood them, and how the codes of representation they employed offer us previously unknown glimpses into the social and cultural meanings of same-sex desire.

The First Homosexuals is being organised in two parts, due to COVID-related delays, with part one opening on October 1 with approximately 100 works, and on view only at Wrightwood 659. Three years from now, in 2025, 250 masterworks will be gathered at Wrightwood 659 for part two of The First Homosexuals in an exhibition which will travel internationally and be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue.

The exhibition is being developed by a team of 23 international scholars led by art historian Jonathan D. Katz, Professor of Practice in the History of Art and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, with associate curator Johnny Willis.

PLEASE NOTE: This exhibition contains sexually explicit content. For mature audiences only.

 

 

Alice Austen (American, 1866-1952) 'Trude & I Masked, Short Skirts' 1891

 

Alice Austen (American, 1866-1952)
Trude & I Masked, Short Skirts
1891
Print, 4 x 5 in
Historic Richmond Town

 

 

Elizabeth Alice Austen (March 17, 1866 – June 9, 1952) was an American photographer working in Staten Island.

One of America’s first female photographers to work outside of the studio, Austen often transported up to 50 pounds of photographic equipment on her bicycle to capture her world.[citation needed] Her photographs represent street and private life through the lens of a lesbian woman whose life spanned from 1866 to 1952. Austen was a rebel who broke away from the constraints of her Victorian environment and forged an independent life that broke boundaries of acceptable female behaviour and social rules. …

Alice Austen’s life and relationships with other women are crucial to an understanding of her work. Until very recently many interpretations of Austen’s work overlooked her intimate relationships. What is especially significant about Austen’s photographs is that they provide rare documentation of intimate relationships between Victorian women. Her non-traditional lifestyle and that of her friends, although intended for private viewing, is the subject of some of her most critically acclaimed photographs. Austen would spend 53 years in a devoted loving relationship with Gertrude Tate, 30 years of which were spent living together in her home which is now the site of the Alice Austen House Museum and a nationally designated site of LGBTQ history.

Austen’s wealth was lost in the stock market crash of 1929 and she and Tate were evicted from their beloved home in 1945. Tate and Austen were finally separated by family rejection of their relationship and poverty. Austen was moved to the Staten Island Farm Colony where Tate would visit her weekly. In 1951 Austen’s photographs were rediscovered by historian Oliver Jensen and money was raised by the publication of her photographs to place Austen in private nursing home care. On June 9, 1952 Austen passed away. The final wishes of Austen and Tate to be buried together were denied by their families.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Violet Oakley (American, 1874-1961) 'Edith Emerson Lecturing' c. 1935

 

Violet Oakley (American, 1874-1961)
Edith Emerson Lecturing
c. 1935
Oil on canvas
35 x 45 in.
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA: gift of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 2012
Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum

 

 

Violet Oakley (June 10, 1874 – February 25, 1961) was an American artist. She was the first American woman to receive a public mural commission. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, she was renowned as a pathbreaker in mural decoration, a field that had been exclusively practiced by men. Oakley excelled at murals and stained glass designs that addressed themes from history and literature in Renaissance-revival styles.

 

Edith Emerson (American, 1888-1981) 'Portrait of Violet Oakley' Date unknown

 

Edith Emerson (American, 1888-1981)
Portrait of Violet Oakley
Date unknown
Oil on canvas
25 x 30 in.
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA: gift of Jane and Noble Hall, 1998
Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum

 

 

Edith Emerson (July 27, 1888 – November 21, 1981) was an American painter, muralist, illustrator, writer, and curator. She was the life partner of acclaimed muralist Violet Oakley and served as the vice-president, president, and curator of the Woodmere Art Museum in the Chestnut Hill neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1940 to 1978. …

[Oakley’s] life partner, Edith Emerson, was a painter and, at one time, a student of Oakley’s. In 1916, Emerson moved into Oakley’s Mount Airy home, Cogslea, where Oakley had formed a communal household with three other women artists, calling themselves the Red Rose Girls. Emerson and Oakley’s relationship endured until Oakley’s death and Emerson subsequently established a foundation to memorialise Oakley’s life and legacy. The foundation dissolved in 1988 and the assets donated to the Smithsonian Museum.

Following Violet Oakley’s death in 1961, Emerson created the Violet Oakley Memorial Foundation to keep her teacher and companion’s memory and ideals alive. The foundation also sought to house and preserve the contents of Oakley’s studio, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as the Violet Oakley Studio. Emerson served as the foundation’s president, as well as curator and general caretaker of the studio. The studio was opened to the public as a kind of museum, and Emerson organised various activities there, including concerts, exhibitions, poetry readings, and lectures on American art and illustration. Following Emerson’s death, the foundation dispersed the contents, sold the house, and disbanded.

In 1979, Emerson was instrumental in mounting an Oakley revival as an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Owe Zerge (Swedish, 1894-1984) 'Model Act' 1919

 

Owe Zerge (Swedish, 1894-1984)
Model Act
1919
Oil on canvas
53.1 x 19.7 in.
Private Collection

 

 

Role of Art in the Modern Construction of Same-Sex Desire Explored for First Time in Groundbreaking Two-Part Exhibition at Wrightwood 659 in Chicago

The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930, begins in the year 1869, when the word “homosexual” was coined in Europe, inaugurating the idea of same-sex desire as the basis for a new identity category. With more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and film clips – drawn from public and private collections around the globe and including works which have never before been allowed to travel outside their countries – this large-scale international exhibition offers the first multi-media survey of some of the founding works of queer art. The First Homosexuals explores what the earliest homosexuals understood themselves to be, how dominant culture understood them, and how the codes of representation they employed offer previously unknown glimpses into the social and cultural meanings of same-sex desire.

The First Homosexuals is organised in two parts, due to Covid-related delays, with Part I on view only at Wrightwood 659 in Chicago from October 1 through December 17, 2022. Three years from now, in 2025, 250 masterworks will be gathered at Wrightwood 659 for Part II, in a major exhibition that will travel internationally, accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue.

Already three years in the making, the exhibition is being developed by a team of 23 international scholars, led by art historian Jonathan D. Katz, Professor of Practice in the History of Art and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, with associate curator Johnny Willis.

The First Homosexuals rewrites conventional art history, in part by deepening the reading of works of art by familiar artists – whether it be Henry Fuseli, Thomas Eakins, or George Bellows – and in part by lifting the cover off works that previously have not been widely understood as declarations of same-sex attachment. The exhibition also introduces American museum goers to a number of artists who are little known in the United States but revered in their own countries, including Gerda Wegener (Denmark); Eugéne Jansson (Sweden); and Frances Hodgkins (New Zealand).

The First Homosexuals explores the cohesion of a new global identity at a liminal moment, one that art can tell uniquely well. While the written archive of the period must necessarily use accepted words to describe ideas, art is notably free of such consensus, allowing for the emergence of more idiosyncratic, contested, and exploratory forms.

The First Homosexuals is an international project of an incredible scale. It perfectly fulfils our mission of presenting novel, socially engaged exhibitions,” says Chirag G. Badlani, Executive Director of Alphawood Foundation Chicago, which is presenting The First Homosexuals through Alphawood Exhibitions. “We are thrilled that the community can experience an important exhibition like this at Wrightwood 659 – given the content, it otherwise might not be seen.” He added, “We are particularly proud to show a collection of early Russian queer works borrowed from the Odesa Fine Arts Museum in Ukraine, amidst the ongoing war, helping to safeguard these important pieces of queer history from potential damage or destruction.”

Dr. Katz, notes, “The First Homosexuals demonstrates that as the language used to name same-sex desire narrowed into a simple binary of homosexual / heterosexual, art went the opposite direction, giving form to a range of sexualities and genders that can best be described as queer. Art became the place where the simplistic sexual binary could be nuanced and particularised, evoking emotions and responses that language couldn’t yet express.”

Dr. Katz continues, “The reality is that current-day conceptions about homosexuality are only roughly as old as the oldest living Americans. Our goal in this exhibition is to read queer desire as it manifested itself in this not-so-long-ago past, while being alert to the very different forms it took globally.”

 

The Exhibition

Part I of The First Homosexuals is installed in nine sections, occupying the entire second floor of the Tadao Ando-designed galleries of Wrightwood 659. The first section, entitled Before Homosexuality, features 19th-century works that suggest how unself-consciously same-sex eroticism was portrayed before the coinage of the word homosexual. A highlight is a print depicting a sexual act between two men by Hokusai, the ukiyo-e master of Japan’s Edo period. Hokusai’s image would have been entirely uncontroversial in its day.

Among the works installed in Couples, the second section, is a leisurely boating scene by the French painter Louise Abbéma, showing herself in masculinate garb with her lover, the celebrated actress Sarah Bernhardt. Two other paintings represent reverse homages, wherein the American artist Edith Emerson paints her lover Violet Oakley and Oakley returns the favour by producing an oil study of Emerson. Also on view in this section is an illustration by Oakley that ran in the December 1903 issue of the popular The Century Magazine, depicting heaven as populated entirely by lithe young women in flowing gold and white robes.

Especially notable in Between Genders is a seductive reclining nude, a painting of one of the first modern transgender women: Gerda Wegener’s Reclining Nude (Lili Elbe), 1929. Nearby, the Russian artist Konstantin Somov’s delicate Portrait of Cécile de Volanges, 1917, appears to portray an 18th-century aristocratic beauty; however, the face is the artist’s own.

Between Genders abounds with photographs documenting the social experiments of the time, including a postcard of the French chanteuse Josephine Baker in male evening attire; the Norwegian Marie Høeg dressed as a man in a variety of carte de visite poses, the calling cards of their day; the French surrealist Claude Cahun in a meditative position with a shaved head looking neither male nor female; and, from across the Atlantic, c. 1890s sepia-toned photographs of an African American man, perhaps once enslaved, performing female drag on the vaudeville stage. A film segment featuring Loïe Fuller performing her legendary Serpentine Dance, 1905, contrasts with another film clip by the Frères Lumière of a male dancer performing the same dance and dressed like Fuller in flowing, billowing robes.

In the section Pose is a famous portrait by the Mexican artist Roberto Montenegro of his friend, the antique and antiquities dealer Chucho Reyes. The limp wrist, the tilted chin, and the amused smile are legible tropes of queer codes even today. As well as picturing Reyes ensconced proudly among his treasures, including an oval miniature of a woman, Montenegro included in the foreground a silver ball reflecting his own visage, thus bringing himself into the picture.

A contrasting note is hit nearby where a recording of “Ma” Rainey’s blues song, “Prove It On Me,” will be played and a vintage advertisement for the vinyl record displayed. Rainey had been arrested for participating in a lesbian sex orgy, a notorious event that she shrewdly parlayed into the #1 best-selling record within the African American community in 1928.

Dr. Katz anchors the exhibition section called Archetypes around an acknowledged masterpiece of American painting, Thomas Eakins’s Salutat,1898. The painting is shown in The First Homosexuals as an example of a scene engineered to focus attention on an erotic part of the young male body. Dr. Katz observes that the crowd appears to be not so much cheering a boxing victory as absorbing a perfect specimen of male beauty.

Throughout this section, the viewer can track the ideal of male beauty evolving beyond the 19th-century ephebic (youthful male beauty idealised in ancient times) to a more masculinised ideal of perfection. A defining work here is a study by Swedish artist Eugène Jansson for his most famous painting, The Naval Bath House, 1907. The custom of young men swimming nude in all-male settings was universal in the West – as seen elsewhere in The First Homosexuals. In this drawing, Jansson carefully employs Cezanne-like strokes to work out seven different poses for as many young men.

The section entitled Desire brings together works of art that are stylistically varied, according to the visual language of the artist’s national culture and training, but alike in depicting same-gender sex or magnifying parts of the body for erotic effect. These include erotica from China, Japan, Iran, and India and a pair of seemingly sedate figure drawings by the French artist Jane Poupelet focusing on the rear view of female models, so as to eroticise women in a way that works to exclude the heterosexual male gaze.

In the section entitled Colonizing, the art on view reflects a number of dynamics, including the Euro-centric definition of early homosexuality, which often clashed with more indigenous forms, and the Western presumption that the East was decadent. European interlopers employed the latter to excuse otherwise forbidden sexual alliances as well as to justify political domination. Here are works as disparate as the Sri Lankan painter David Paynter’s modernist oil, L’après midi, 1935; F. Holland Day’s haunting double exposure photograph, The Vision, (Orpheus Scene), 1907; and a propaganda piece dropped by Japanese nationals into Russian territory to demoralise Russian troops during the Russo-Japanese War.

Following, in the section Public and Private, comes Charles Demuth’s ‘morning after’ scene of three young men in pyjamas and underwear in a stylish domestic interior; lesbian genre scenes set in Eastern Europe; and Marsden Hartley’s Berlin Ante War, 1914, a painting charting life, death, faith, sunrise, and sunset in symbolic forms and colours.

The centrepiece of the final thematic section, Past and Future, is a little-known masterpiece by the Finnish artist, Magnus Enckell, an impressionist-styled painting that reverses the classical myth of Leda and the swan, illustrating a nude man strangling the rapacious figure of Zeus in the form of a swan. Other works here evidence what is likely the earliest use of the rainbow as a symbol of same-sex love; photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden that combine classical ruins and Sicilian youth; and the desire to acknowledge same-sex precedents in ancient history, as in the colour lithograph, Hadrian and Antinous, 1906, by Paul Avril (Édouard-Henri Avril).

The First Homosexuals documents The Elisarion, a temple to the arts built by the same-sex cultist and visionary Elisar von Kupffer in 1926 in Minusio, a tiny principality in Switzerland. Paintings of scenes illustrating same-sex desire once covered the walls of von Kupffer’s Sanctuarium. A cache of these were discovered recently in a municipal warehouse in Minusio by Dr. Katz and his team. This fall, the paintings will be seen for the first time in documentary photographs. In 2025, the actual large-scale paintings will be exhibited for the first time outside Switzerland in Part II of The First Homosexuals: Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930.

Press release from Wrightwood 659

 

Marie Høeg (Norwegian, 1866-1949) 'Untitled [Marie Høeg and her brother in the studio]' c. 1895-1903

 

Berg & Høeg (Horten)
Bolette Berg (Norwegian, 1872-1944)
Marie Høeg (Norwegian, 1866-1949)
Untitled [Marie Høeg and her brother in the studio]
c. 1895-1903
Print, 2.4 x 3.1 in
Owner: Preus Museum Collection, Norway

 

Marie Høeg (Norwegian, 1866-1949) 'Marie Høeg dressed as a man' 1895-1903

 

Berg & Høeg (Horten)
Bolette Berg (Norwegian, 1872-1944)
Marie Høeg (Norwegian, 1866-1949)
Marie Høeg dressed as a man
1895-1903
Owner: Preus Museum Collection, Norway

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915) 'Bath house study' Nd

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915)
Bath house study
Nd
Black chalk on paper
33 1/2 x 39 inches

 

 

Eugène Fredrik Jansson (18 March 1862, Stockholm – 15 June 1915, Skara) was a Swedish painter known for his night-time land- and cityscapes dominated by shades of blue. Towards the end of his life, from about 1904, he mainly painted male nudes. The earlier of these phases has caused him to sometimes be referred to as blåmålaren, “the blue-painter”. …

After 1904, when he had already achieved success with his Stockholm views, Jansson confessed to a friend that he felt absolutely exhausted and had no more wish to continue with what he had done until then. He stopped participating in exhibitions for several years and went over to figure painting. To combat the health issues he had suffered from since childhood, he became a diligent swimmer and winter bather, often visiting the navy bathhouse, where he found the new subjects for his paintings. He painted groups of sunbathing sailors, and young muscular nude men lifting weights or doing other physical exercises.

Art historians and critics have long avoided the issue of any possible homoerotic tendencies in this later phase of his art, but later studies (see Brummer 1999) have established that Jansson was in all probability homosexual and appears to have had a relationship with at least one of his models. His brother, Adrian Jansson, who was himself homosexual and survived Eugène by many years, burnt all his letters and many other papers, possibly to avoid scandal (homosexuality was illegal in Sweden until 1944).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'The Vision (Orpheus Scene)' 1907

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
The Vision (Orpheus Scene)
1907
Platinum print

 

Florence Carlyle (Canadian, 1864-1923) 'The Guest, Venice' 1913

 

Florence Carlyle (Canadian, 1864-1923)
The Guest, Venice
1913
Oil on canvas
28.9 x 15 in
Woodstock Art Gallery, Woodstock, Ontario, gift of Lenora McCartney
Photo Credit: John Tamblyn

 

 

Florence Carlyle

Florence Carlyle (1864-1923) was a Canadian painter born in Ontario. Carlyle studied painting in Paris beginning in 1890, where she exhibited work at Paris Salons while gaining recognition in Canada and the United States – achievements unusual for women of her time. After Carlyle returned to Canada in 1896, she continued to exhibit widely and contributed artworks to major exhibitions and museum collections. Influenced by the French Barbizon School, Impressionism, and the work of fellow female painters, Carlyle was known for intimate, domestic scenes of middle-class women’s lives.

In 1911, Carlyle traveled to Italy and England, where she met Judith Hastings, who would become her lifelong companion and model. In 1913, Carlyle and Hastings settled in Yew Tree Cottage in East Sussex. The Guest, Venice shows Hastings and Carlyle in conversation at sunset in a scene dominated by warm reds and yellows. The women’s poses and gestures seem to reflect each other – Hastings, seated, invitingly pulls on a long necklace while Carlyle leans comfortably on a windowsill, their complimentary poses suggesting an intimate relationship. The Threshold depicts Hastings as a bride. In place of a groom, Hastings stands across from an empty chair and a vase of flowers, this absence perhaps a subtle allusion to her relationship with Carlyle.

The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930 is the first exhibition to display Carlyle’s artwork in the context of same-sex desire and relationships.

On view: Self Portrait, c. 1901, Oil on canvas; The Threshold, 1913, Oil on canvas; The Guest, Venice, 1913, Oil on canvas.

 

Florence Carlyle (Canadian, 1864-1923) 'The Threshold' 1913

 

Florence Carlyle (Canadian, 1864-1923)
The Threshold
1913
Oil on canvas
117 x 96.5cm

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) 'Untitled [Self portrait in profile, sitting cross legged]' 1920

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
Untitled [Self portrait in profile, sitting cross legged]
1920
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

Claude Cahun (1894-1954) was a French photographer and writer known for works created in collaboration with their artistic and life partner Marcel Moore (1892-1972), an illustrator for magazines and avant-garde dance and theatre productions. Both artists adopted androgynous names in the 1910s and lived together in Paris by the early 1920s. In Paris, Cahun made theatrical and surrealist self-portraits, often dressing in masculine clothing with a shaved head or short-cropped hair and in elaborate costume, makeup, or masks.

Although Cahun considered themself a surrealist, and their images and writings presaged the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, they were not aways readily accepted by Surrealist circles who celebrated images of women but rejected female artists. Despite this, many surrealists held Cahun in high regard, including Andre Breton, who recognised Cahun as, “one of the most curious spirits of our time.” Cahun’s 1930 surrealist autobiographical text Aveux non avenus combines non-linear stories and ideas with photomontages and self-portraits. In this text, Cahun also draws connections between their gender-fluid self-portraiture and identity, declaring that “neuter is the only gender that invariably suits me.”

On view: Illustration for Vues et Visions, 1919, Exhibition print; Untitled [Self portrait in profile, sitting cross legged], 1920, Exhibition print.

 

Anonymous photographer (France). 'Untitled [Two Black actors (Charles Gregory and Jack Brown), one in drag, dance together on stage]' c. 1903

 

Anonymous photographer (France)
Untitled [Two Black actors (Charles Gregory and Jack Brown), one in drag, dance together on stage]
c. 1903
Print, 5.5 x 3.5 in
Wellcome Collection

 

 

Charles Gregory and Jack Brown

Charles Gregory and Jack Brown were American performing artists credited with introducing the wildly popular Cake-Walk dance to Paris in 1902. The Cake-Walk, which often featured gaudy and ostentatious costumes worn by both men and women, began as a parody of the European “Grand March” performed by Black enslaved people on antebellum Southern plantations. Although the dance was originally performed by and for Black communities, the Cake-Walk became popular with white slaveholders as well, who incorporated the dance into minstrel shows where it would be performed in blackface.

In the late 19th century, the Cake Walk took off as a dance craze, in the United States and Europe. Around the same time, the dance was also adopted by the underground Black queer community. William Dorsey Swann, the first self-proclaimed “queen of drag”, held the first drag balls in Washington, D.C., which featured Cake-Walk dances performed by men in women’s clothing. Drag balls went on to become a mainstay of Black queer and trans expression, becoming popular during the Harlem Renaissance and later in Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. This film of Jack Brown and Charles Gregory is the first extant drag film, produced by those famed early innovators in cinema, the Lumière Brothers.

On view: Unknown artist, Le cake-walk. Dansé au Nouveau Cirque. Les nègres [Two black actors, Charles Gregory and Jack Brown, one in drag, dancing the Cake-Walk in Paris], 1903, Exhibition print; Untitled [Two black actors (Charles Gregory and Jack Brown), one in drag, dance together on stage], c. 1903, Exhibition print; Auguste and Louis Lumière, Nègres, [I], c. 1902-1903, Digital reproduction of film.

 

 

Nègres, [I] (1903) Lumière [incomplete]

 

Gerda Wegener (Danish, 1885-1940) 'Venus and Amor' Nd

 

Gerda Wegener (Danish, 1885-1940)
Venus and Amor
Nd
Oil on canvas
81 by 116cm (31 3/4 by 45 3/4in.)

 

Gerda Wegener (Danish, 1885-1940) 'Reclining Nude (Lili Elbe)' 1929

 

Gerda Wegener (Danish, 1885-1940)
Reclining Nude (Lili Elbe)
1929
Watercolour on paper
20.8 x 26.9 in
The Shin Collection, New York
Image Courtesy of Shin Gallery, New York

 

 

Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe

Gerda Wegener (1885-1940) and Lili Elbe (1882-1931) were Danish artists active in the early 20th century. The two met while students at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where Elbe was known by her birth name Einar Wegener. The couple married in 1904 and both worked as artists. Wegener was known for her illustrations, including female same-sex erotica; Elbe produced landscape paintings.

Lili Elbe began to understand herself as a woman as early as 1904. In 1912, Elbe and Wegener moved from Copenhagen to Paris, where Elbe openly dressed and identified as a woman. Throughout their partnership, Elbe was a favoured muse of Wegener and modelled for many of her paintings, including Art Deco and Art Nouveau images of the independent “New Woman.” Many of Wegener’s images depict female characters in erotic or homosocial environments – in the case of Venus and Amor, feminine and androgynous figures populate an idyllic allegorical scene. In 1930, Elbe traveled to Germany for the first of four sex reassignment surgeries, which was completed under the supervision of physician Magnus Hirschfeld, who had coined the term “transsexual” in 1923. Elbe died from complications of a fourth surgery in 1931.

In 2000, David Ebershoff depicted Wegener and Elbe’s relationship in his book The Danish Girl, which was adapted into a film in 2015.

On view: Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener), An Autumn Day at Bassin de Flore at Versailles, 1917, Oil on canvas; Gerda Wegener, Reclining Nude (Lili Elbe), 1919, Watercolour; Gerda Wegener, Venus and Amor, c. 1920, Oil on canvas; Gerda Wegener, Ulla Poulsen (Ballerina), c. 1927, Oil on canvas; Gerda Wegener, Erotic Scene, Ink and watercolour on paper.

 

Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener) (Danish, 1882-1931) 'An Autumn Day at Bassin de Flore at Versailles' 1917

 

Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener) (Danish, 1882-1931)
An Autumn Day at Bassin de Flore at Versailles
1917
Oil on canvas
Height: 61cm (24 in); width: 81cm (31.8 in)

 

Gerda Wegener. 'The Ballerina Ulla Poulsen in the Ballet Chopiniana' Paris, 1927

 

Gerda Wegener (Danish, 1885-1940)
The Ballerina Ulla Poulsen in the Ballet Chopiniana
Paris, 1927
Oil on canvas

 

Konstantin Somov (Russian, 1869-1939) 'Portrait of Cécile de Volanges' 1934

 

Konstantin Somov (Russian, 1869-1939)
Portrait of Cécile de Volanges
1934
Pencils on paper

 

 

Konstantin Somov

Konstantin Somov (1869-1939) was a Russian painter and a leading figure in the inter-disciplinary artistic movement and eponymous journal Mir iskusstva (World of Art), active from 1897 to the mid-1920s. Somov often depicted doll-like harlequin characters, women wearing masks, and French Rococo-style costume in his work. Some of these romantic or erotic compositions reference works by Aubrey Beardsley, an English illustrator who also evoked erotic masquerades in his artwork.

In Somov’s scenes, costumes often obscure the gender of couples engaging in romantic activity and reference an excessive game of love and emotion – a theme common to other artists associated with the Decadent movement and Russian Symbolism. Somov was also known for portraying women as ugly or masculine in images he described as encapsulating his frustration with his own same-sex attraction. Along with his erotic scenes, Somov painted male nudes and portraits of his close friends and partners. Somov also adopted the rainbow as a reference to homosexuality via the story of the biblical flood, in which the rainbow represents absolution and acceptance after divine punishment for corporeal sin.

On view: Standing Male Model from Back, 1896, Crayons and sauce-crayon on paper; A Shepard and a Dog, 1898, Exhibition print; Pierrot and Lady (The Fireworks), 1910, Watercolours and whitewash on paper; Les Tribades illustration for Le Livre de la Marquise, Watercolours and zincography on paper; Landscape with Rainbows, 1915, Oil on canvas; Portrait of Cécile de Volanges, 1917, Pencils on paper.

 

Konstantin Somov (Russian, 1869-1939) 'Pierrot and Lady (The Fireworks)' 1910

 

Konstantin Somov (Russian, 1869-1939)
Pierrot and Lady (The Fireworks)
1910
Watercolours and whitewash on paper
46 × 35cm

 

Lionel Wendt (Sri Lankan, 1900-1944) 'Nude with a light bulb' c. 1935

 

Lionel Wendt (Sri Lankan, 1900-1944)
Nude with a light bulb
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Lionel Wendt

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944) was a photographer, pianist, critic, and filmmaker born in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) to a Burgher father and a Sinhalese mother. As a young man, Wendt traveled to London, where he studied music and earned a law degree. In 1924, Wendt returned to Ceylon and became associated with prominent artists including Geoffrey Beyling, Ivan Peries, and George Keyt, with whom he founded the 43 Group. Recognised as the first modern art group in Ceylon, the 43 Group promoted artwork that departed from academic style and colonial tradition in favour of free expression.

Wendt is known for his photographs of Sinhalese subjects, documentation of indigenous ways of life, intimate portraits, and his experimental images, which deployed techniques the artist observed in Surrealist photography. Some of these images use photography to complicate the act of viewing or trouble the cohesion of Wendt’s subject. For example, Wendt’s Nude with a light bulb (c. 1935) deals with the concept of exposure in multiple registers. The image’s composition alternately exposes the male body and refuses identification, perhaps commenting on the alternately public and private nature of homosexuality. The image also references the techniques of photography itself; a single lightbulb literally exposes a domestic interior to reveal an assembly of jars, pitchers, and timer-tools; items often present in a dark room where a photographer makes an “exposure” of a negative to produce a print.

On view: Nude with a light bulb, c. 1935, Gelatin silver print.

 

Circle of Eakins. 'Thomas Eakins and students, swimming nude' c. 1883

 

Circle of Eakins
Thomas Eakins and students, swimming nude
c. 1883
Platinum print
8 15/16 x 11 1/16 in. (22.7 x 28.1cm)
Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection, purchased with the partial support of the Pew Memorial Trust

 

 

Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (July 25, 1844 – June 25, 1916) was an American realist painter, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important American artists.

For the length of his professional career, from the early 1870s until his health began to fail some 40 years later, Eakins worked exactingly from life, choosing as his subject the people of his hometown of Philadelphia. He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of contemporary Philadelphia; individually, they are incisive depictions of thinking persons.

In addition, Eakins produced a number of large paintings that brought the portrait out of the drawing room and into the offices, streets, parks, rivers, arenas, and surgical amphitheaters of his city. These active outdoor venues allowed him to paint the subject that most inspired him: the nude or lightly clad figure in motion. In the process, he could model the forms of the body in full sunlight, and create images of deep space utilising his studies in perspective. Eakins also took a keen interest in the new technologies of motion photography, a field in which he is now seen as an innovator.

No less important in Eakins’ life was his work as a teacher. As an instructor he was a highly influential presence in American art. The difficulties which beset him as an artist seeking to paint the portrait and figure realistically were paralleled and even amplified in his career as an educator, where behavioural and sexual scandals truncated his success and damaged his reputation.

Eakins was a controversial figure whose work received little by way of official recognition during his lifetime. Since his death, he has been celebrated by American art historians as “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American art”. …

The Swimming Hole (1884-1885) features Eakins’ finest studies of the nude, in his most successfully constructed outdoor picture. The figures are those of his friends and students, and include a self-portrait. Although there are photographs by Eakins which relate to the painting, the picture’s powerful pyramidal composition and sculptural conception of the individual bodies are completely distinctive pictorial resolutions. The work was painted on commission, but was refused.

In the late 1890s Eakins returned to the male figure, this time in a more urban setting. Taking the Count (1896), a painting of a prizefight, was his second largest canvas, but not his most successful composition. The same may be said of Wrestlers (1899). More successful was Between Rounds (1899), for which boxer Billy Smith posed seated in his corner at Philadelphia’s Arena; in fact, all the principal figures were posed by models re-enacting what had been an actual fight. Salutat (1898), a frieze-like composition in which the main figure is isolated, “is one of Eakins’ finest achievements in figure-painting.” …

 

Personal life and marriage

The nature of Eakins’ sexuality and its impact on his art is a matter of intense scholarly debate. Strong circumstantial evidence points to discussion during Eakins’s lifetime that he had homosexual leanings, and there is little doubt that he was attracted to men, as evidenced in his photography, and three major paintings where male buttocks are a focal point: The Gross Clinic, Salutat, and The Swimming Hole. The last, in which Eakins appears, is increasingly seen as sensuous and autobiographical.

Until recently, major Eakins scholars persistently denied he was homosexual, and such discussion was marginalised. While there is still no consensus, today discussion of homoerotic desire plays a large role in Eakins scholarship. The discovery of a large trove of Eakins’ personal papers in 1984 has also driven reassessment of his life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Salutat, Between Rounds (a portion of which was executed separately as Billy Smith) and Taking the Count are a series of three large boxing paintings done by Eakins. The former two depict events surrounding a boxing match that took place on April 22, 1898. Featherweight Tim Callahan fought featherweight Billy Smith in a match that was close until the final round, when Callahan gained the advantage and won the fight. However, for Salutat, Eakins chose to depict Smith as the winner. In the work, Smith raises his hand to salute the audience, in the style of a gladiator. On the painting’s original frame Eakins carved the words “DEXTRA VICTRICE CONCLAMANTES SALVTAT” (With the victorious right hand, he salutes those shouting [their approval]).

As with a number of other Eakins works, the rendering of the figures is extremely precise, such that it has allowed art historians to identify individual members of the audience. While working on the boxing pictures, friends would visit the studio, and Eakins invited them to “stay a while and I’ll put you in the picture.” For Salutat, audience members include Eakins’s friend Louis Kenton (wearing eyeglasses and a bow tie), sportswriter Clarence Cranmer (wearing a bowler hat), David Jordan (brother of Letitia Wilson Jordan, whom Eakins painted in Portrait of Letitia Wilson Jordan), photographer Louis Husson (next to Jordan), Eakins’s student Samuel Murray, and Eakins’s father Benjamin Eakins.

Smith is bathed in soft white light, which illuminates his muscles. Amid a general tonality of warm greys and browns that contains no strong chromatic notes, the skin tones of the three main figures are pale. All three men have the quality of relief sculpture, and with Smith’s figure separate from those of his seconds, they appear to move across the canvas in an arrangement reminiscent of a frieze.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916) 'Salutat' 1898

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Salutat
1898
Oil on canvas
50 in. x 40 in. (127 cm x 101.6cm)
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, gift of anonymous donor
Replica of Thomas Eakins’ original frame created and given as a partial gift by Eli Wilner & Company with the additional support of Maureen Barden and David Othmer

 

 

Katz told Windy City Times that being defined as a homosexual “was both a gift and a problem” for queer people during those years, depending on how the word affected their daily lives. For some, it clarified who they were and that was a benefit to them while for others their sexual possibilities were limited otherwise people would define them as a homosexual.

“The reason this is important is previously same-sex desire was understood not as a noun but as a verb,” said Katz. “It was something you did, not something you are. What we are trying to do is assess what happens after the identity category was created and a group of people fell under that name. The important theoretical point I am trying to make is that as language grew increasingly strict and binary, the menu of sexual and gender possibilities that was open to everybody grew increasingly constricted. What resulted out of that is as language became increasingly impoverished regarding sexuality and gender, art took up the slack. Art started to represent all sorts of sexual possibilities that language could no longer understand or name.” …

“These works will be looked at not just in the Euro-American frame, but in a global frame,” said Katz. “We are also assessing how, for example, following the lines of colonial domination European ideas were imposed over more local sexual definitions and names. What we have really is the first imaging of the first homosexuals. What is remarkable about this is some of these are among the most famous paintings among the most famous painters in their respective regions, but they have not been gathered under this rubric. The images are known, they just have not been interpreted in this way.” …

“This show resolutely demonstrates that we, as queer people, have a history, too – a rich, complex history that has been left out of the prevailing accounts of art history,” said Willis. “Too often we hear the accusation that queer, trans, and non-binary identities are something ‘new,’ and thus something without a history. The exhibition shuts down any such allegation, resurfacing this ‘lost’ generation of modern LGBTQ ancestry.” …

“I think this exhibition will begin to open up or underscore the way in which our language of binaries is way too delimited and poor of frame to understand the complexities of human behavior,” said Katz. “What this show does, and what art is great at because it does not have to use language, is depict all these variations. You will see therefore a range of possibilities of gender and sexual desire that our language does not have words for.”

Carrie Maxwell. “Jonathan D. Katz previews his upcoming ‘First Homosexuals’ exhibit,” on the Windy City Times website 17th September 2022 [Online] Cited 05/11/2022

 

Louise Abbéma (French, 1853-1927) 'Sarah Bernhardt et Louise Abbéma sur un lac' 1883

 

Louise Abbéma (French, 1853-1927)
Sarah Bernhardt et Louise Abbéma sur un lac
1883
Oil on canvas
63 x 82.7 x 1.2 in (framed)
Collections Comédie-Française

 

 

Louise Abbéma (30 October 1853 – 29 July 1927) was a French painter, sculptor, and designer of the Belle Époque. …

She was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon, where she received an honourable mention for her panels in 1881. Abbéma was also among the female artists whose works were exhibited in the Women’s Building at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A bust Sarah Bernhardt sculpted of Abbéma was also exhibited at the exposition.

Abbéma specialised in oil portraits and watercolours, and many of her works showed the influence from Chinese and Japanese painters, as well as contemporary masters such as Édouard Manet. She frequently depicted flowers in her works. Among her best-known works are The Seasons, April Morning, Place de la Concorde, Among the Flowers, Winter, and portraits of actress Jeanne Samary, Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, Ferdinand de Lesseps, and Charles Garnier. …

 

New Woman

As educational opportunities were made more available in the 19th century, women artists became part of professional enterprises, including founding their own art associations. Artwork made by women was considered to be inferior, and to help overcome that stereotype women became “increasingly vocal and confident” in promoting women’s work, and thus became part of the emerging image of the educated, modern and freer “New Woman”. Artists then, “played crucial roles in representing the New Woman, both by drawing images of the icon and exemplifying this emerging type through their own lives,” including Abbéma who created androgynous self-portraits to “link intellectual life through emphasis on ocularity”. Many other portraits included androgynously dressed women, and women participating in intellectual and other pastimes traditionally associated with men.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943) 'Berlin Ante War' 1914

 

Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943)
Berlin Ante War
1914
Oil on canvas with painted wood frame
34 x 43 in.
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio: gift of Ferdinand Howald

 

“Berlin Ante War” (1914), or “Prewar,” explores the profound impact the city had on the artist.

 

 

Marsden Hartley (January 4, 1877 – September 2, 1943) was an American Modernist painter, poet, and essayist. Hartley developed his painting abilities by observing Cubist artists in Paris and Berlin. …

 

German sympathies

In April 1913 Hartley relocated to Berlin, the capital of the German Empire where he continued to paint, and became friends with the painters Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. He also collected Bavarian folk art. His work during this period was a combination of abstraction and German Expressionism, fuelled by his personal brand of mysticism. Many of Hartley’s Berlin paintings were further inspired by the German military pageantry then on display, though his view of this subject changed after the outbreak of World War I, once war was no longer “a romantic but a real reality”.

Two of Hartley’s Cézanne-inspired still life paintings and six charcoal drawings were selected to be included in the landmark 1913 Armory Show in New York.

In Berlin, Hartley developed a close relationship with a Prussian lieutenant, Karl von Freyburg, who was the cousin of Hartley’s friend Arnold Ronnebeck. References to Freyburg were a recurring motif in Hartley’s work, most notably in Portrait of a German Officer (1914). Freyburg’s subsequent death during the war hit Hartley hard, and he afterward idealised their relationship. Many scholars interpreted his work regarding Freyburg as embodying homosexual feelings for him. Hartley lived in Berlin until December 1915.

Hartley returned to the U.S. from Berlin as a German sympathiser following World War I. Hartley created paintings with much German iconography. The homoerotic tones were overlooked as critics focused on the German point of view. According to Arthur Lubow, Hartley was disingenuous in arguing that there was “no hidden symbolism whatsoever”. …

Hartley was not overt about his homosexuality, often redirecting attention towards other aspects of his work. Works such as Portrait of a German Officer and Handsome Drinks are coded. The compositions honour lovers, friends, and inspirational sources. Hartley no longer felt unease at what people thought of his work once he reached his sixties. His figure paintings of athletic, muscular males, often nude or garbed only in briefs or thongs, became more intimate, such as Flaming American (Swim Champ), 1940 or Madawaska – Acadian Light-Heavy – Second Arrangement (both from 1940). As with Hartley’s German officer paintings, his late paintings of virile males are now assessed in terms of his affirmation of his homosexuality.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Duncan Grant (British, 1885-1978) 'Bathers at the Pond' 1920-1921

 

Duncan Grant (British, 1885-1978)
Bathers at the Pond
1920-1921
Oil on canvas
35 x 19 in.
© Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS London / ARS, New York

 

 

Duncan James Corrowr Grant (21 January 1885 – 8 May 1978) was a British painter and designer of textiles, pottery, theatre sets and costumes. He was a member of the Bloomsbury Group.

 

Frances Hodgkins (New Zealand, 1869-1947) 'Friends (Double Portrait)' [Hannah Ritchie and Jane Saunders] 1922-1923

 

Frances Hodgkins (New Zealand, 1869-1947)
Friends (Double Portrait) [Hannah Ritchie and Jane Saunders]
1922-1923
Oil on canvas
24 x 30.3 in.
Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago

 

 

Frances Mary Hodgkins (28 April 1869 – 13 May 1947) was a New Zealand painter chiefly of landscape and still life, and for a short period was a designer of textiles. She was born and raised in New Zealand, but spent most of her working life in England. She is considered one of New Zealand’s most prestigious and influential painters, although it is the work from her life in Europe, rather than her home country, on which her reputation rests.

Hannah Ritchie and Jane Saunders were artists and taught art at the Manchester Girls High School. They were friends and supporters of artist Frances Hodgkins.

 

There is in Hodgkins’s life, however, evidence of an unconventional existence, supported, populated, and propelled by a roll call of LGBTQI+ people, including: Jane Saunders, Hannah Ritchie, Amy Krause, Dorothy Selby, Arthur Lett Haines, Cedric Morris, Norman Notley, David Brynley, Geoffrey Gorer, Christopher Wood, Philip and Lady Ottoline Morrell, Duncan Grant … and many more. While this is not proof that Hodgkins was a lesbian (if that should even be necessary), it signals an openness to a queer world – its people and their relationships – that makes for a fascinating investigation. …

In the early-to-mid-1920s, she lived off and on with lesbian partners Jane Saunders and Hannah Ritchie. These were desperate years for Hodgkins. Ritchie and Saunders housed and fed her, and gave her financial support in the form of an allowance. When Hodgkins was seriously thinking of returning to New Zealand, they gave her reason to stay in the United Kingdom. …

Ritchie and Saunders, both students of Hodgkins since 1911 and 1912, drew her into their milieu of influential literary and artistic friends. Their network included Forrest Hewit, chairman of the Calico Printers’ Association who helped her secure a job as a designer on a salary of £500 a year. The job-offer came just a month before Hodgkins was due to return home to New Zealand and changed the course of her life forever.

Joanne Drayton. “Frances Hodgkins: A portrait of queer love,” on the Te Papa Tongarewa website Nd [Online] Cited 06/11/2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hannah Richie, Frances Hodgkins, and Jane Saunders seated in a garden' c. 1925

 

Unknown photographer
Hannah Richie, Frances Hodgkins, and Jane Saunders seated in a garden
c. 1925
Cellulose triacetate copy negative
12.5 x 10cm
National Library of New Zealand

Please note: Photograph not in exhibition

 

 

Curator of The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930, Jonathan D. Katz, discusses Berlin Ante War by Mardsen Hartley.
Videography by Steve Rosofsky

 

 

Curator of The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930, Jonathan D. Katz, discusses Salutat by Thomas Eakins.
Videography by Steve Rosofsky.
Introductory clip: A Representation of Loïe Fuller and her “Serpentine Dance” produced by Pathé Frères in 1905.

 

 

Curator of The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930, Jonathan D. Katz, discusses the work of Louise Abbéma.
Videography by Steve Rosofsky.

 

 

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04
Dec
22

Exhibition: ‘In the Library: Photography and Travel in Sargent’s Spain’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 3rd October – 30th December 2022

Curator: Thomas O’Callaghan, Image Specialist for Spanish Art, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections

 

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'Panorama of Ávila' c. 1870

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
Panorama of Ávila
c. 1870
Albumen silver photograph
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

Another eclectic posting… this time, wonderful early photographs of the people and places of Spain.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Rafael Garzón Rodríguez (1863-1923, photographer) 'Retablo (Altar) by F. de Borgoña, Capilla Real, Granada' c. 1890

 

Rafael Garzón Rodríguez (1863-1923, photographer)
Retablo (Altar) by F. de Borgoña, Capilla Real, Granada
c. 1890
Gelatin silver DOP photograph
Granada: Rafael Garzón (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

A distant land celebrated for its fusion of cultures, Spain in the time of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) fascinated many. As railroads began crisscrossing the sun-drenched countryside, more visitors could reach more places. Artists like Sargent went to explore: he studied works by Spanish masters, viewed architecture and gardens – with their rich blend of influences, and encountered a land and people that fuelled his creative imagination. A craze for all things Spanish ensued, especially in the United States, where many Spanish artworks entered private collections.

A vibrant visual culture emerged in Spain as commercial photographers such as Juan Laurent established studios that catered to the influx of visitors. As this imagery was collected and dispersed, it entered the popular imagination and defined the region in ways that still influence us today. These materials – the period postcards, fine photographs, and albums – allow us to see Spain as Sargent did, from its landscapes, architecture, and art to its music, dance, and costumes.

Photography and Travel in Sargent’s Spain draws upon photographs and printed matter in the Department of Image Collections of the National Gallery of Art Library. This exhibition is held in conjunction with Sargent and Spain.

Organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

This exhibition is curated by Thomas O’Callaghan, Image Specialist for Spanish Art, National Gallery of Art, Department of Image Collections.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'Tudela to Bilbao: Logroño Railway Station' 1865

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
Tudela to Bilbao: Logroño Railway Station
1865
Albumen silver photograph
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

The Compañia de Ferrocarril de Tudela a Bilbao began construction of this railway line in northern Spain in 1857 and finished it in 1863. Two years later, the company commissioned Juan Laurent to document the newly completed line. Laurent photographed the iron tracks, viaducts and rural stations, including this view of the Logroño station, during the two-month-long project that culminated in a final presentation album for the company. With the arrival of the first railroads in Spain in 1848, the Spanish writer Modesto Lafuente (1806-1866) observed: “There is poetry in the little stations where a slow train stops for a long time, on a scorching summer morning; the sun fills everything and blinds the distances; everything is still; some birds sing in the acacias in front of the station; down the lonely, dusty road, a solitary carriage makes for the town, which stands out for its pointed bell tower with a black slate roof. Those other stations near the old cities have poetry, to which on Sunday afternoons, during the twilight, the girls go out for a walk and wander slowly along the platform, arm in arm, peering curiously at the passengers from other places inside the cars. Finally, the arrival of the train, at dawn, at a station in the provincial capital has poetry; after the first moment of arrival, the travellers who were waiting comfortably amid a profound silence, the snort of the locomotive is once again heard; a long voice sounds; the train starts moving again; and there, in the distance, in the darkness of the night, in these dense and deep hours of the morning, the dim, mysterious flicker of the little lights that shine in the sleeping city can be glimpsed: an old city, with narrow alleys, with a vast cathedral, with a dilapidated inn, into which now, rousing the waiter from his drowsiness, a newly arrived traveler is about to enter, while we ride the train away through the black countryside, contemplating the flickering of those little lights that lose themselves and arise anew, and end up completely disappearing.” (quoted in José Martínez Ruiz (Azorín), Castilla, Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, 1912, pp. 37-38)

Juan Laurent, noted French photographer, established a studio in Madrid in 1856. He is recognised for his architectural and landscape scenes of Spain and Portugal as well as his extensive documentation of the collections of the Prado Museum and the Royal Armory in Madrid. By the 1860s he was the proprietor of Laurent y Cia, the largest photographic publishing house in Spain. Laurent’s prints and albums were marketed to a wealthy clientele through his gallery in Paris and distributed in England by Marion & Co. of London. (Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, vol. 2, pp. 829-830).

This mounted photograph may have been sold from one of Laurent’s sales outlets for inclusion in an album. Laurent later commercialised this image in stereoscopic view and large format.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Joseph Lacoste (1872 - c. 1930, photographer) 'Albumen silver photograph of Diego Velázquez's Prince Baltasar Carlos on Horseback (1635-1636)' 1900/1915

 

Joseph Lacoste (1872 – c. 1930, photographer)
Albumen silver photograph of Diego Velázquez’s Prince Baltasar Carlos on Horseback (1635-1636)
1900/1915
Madrid: J. Lacoste (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

Baltasar Carlos gallops through the rolling Guadarrama mountain landscape near Madrid with an aristocratic bearing befitting a crown prince of the Spanish empire. Starting with the shocks of the empire’s dissolution, however, Spanish intellectuals of the 1860s and 1890s embraced Velázquez and Goya for being the first artists to paint the natural landscape of Castille. For these scholars, the arid landscape revealed the very heart of Spanish identity. Moreover, it was the key to Spain’s revitalisation, especially after the heartbreaking losses of the Spanish-American War of 1898. As a result of the newfound reclamation, the Spanish reformed Free Institution of Education (ILE) began emphasising the study of landscape painting and scientific disciplines like geography and geology. In addition, it encouraged the students to make excursions into nature. Likewise, it offered new art history courses that celebrated Velázquez and Goya for significantly including the Guadarrama mountains of central Spain in their paintings.

Joseph Jean Marie Lacoste y Borde was a French-born photographer who moved to Spain in 1894. He took over Laurent y Cía. from Juan Laurent’s stepdaughter Catalina Dosch de Roswag in 1900, and ran it up to the First World War, when he was drafted by the French armed forces. During the time he ran the company, he was, like Juan Laurent before him, an important photographer at the Museo del Prado. Many early Prado catalogues are printed with Lacoste images. Though he now controlled all the old Laurent negatives of the museum’s collections, Lacoste photographed the collections again, using the new gelatin dry plate process for his negatives. The dry plate process more faithfully rendered the true colours of the paintings in the scale of grey values than the old collodion wet plate process. The collodion process reproduced reds in nature, for example, as dark grey, even black. The smaller scale of this photograph as well as the more faithful reproduction of grey values suggest that it was printed from a gelatin negative made by Lacoste sometime after 1900.

Juan Laurent, noted French photographer who resided in Spain for 43 years, established a studio in Madrid in 1856. He is recognised for his architectural and landscape scenes of Spain and Portugal as well as his extensive documentation of the collections of the Prado Museum and the Royal Armory in Madrid. By the 1860s he was the proprietor of Laurent y Cia, the largest photographic publishing house in Spain. Laurent’s prints and albums were marketed to a wealthy clientele through his gallery in Paris and distributed in England by Marion & Co. of London. (Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, vol. 2, pp. 829-830).

This rare photograph is from A222, vol. 6. (loose photographs only). The six volumes comprising A222 have photographs of paintings, sculpture, architecture, archeological sites, streetscapes and landscapes of Italy and elsewhere on the “Grand Tour.” 514 are mounted in albums, and 59 are individually matted. Of these 59, many, like this albumen silver print of the Velázquez painting in the Prado, are dry-stamped “J. Lacoste – Madrid”, and two (of Murillo paintings) are dry-stamped with an interlaced J L & C monogram, which was an earlier iteration used by the Lacoste company.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Charles Mauzaisse (1823-1885, photographer) 'The Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada' 1862

 

Charles Mauzaisse (1823-1885, photographer)
The Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada
1862
Albumen silver photograph
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

The Nasrid sultan Muhammad V (died 1391) conceived the Court of the Lions in his Garden Palace in the Alhambra as a paradisal garden, with sunken flowerbeds and waterways symbolising the rivers of Paradise, and pillars representing palm trees growing in an oasis. The court with its alabaster fountain supported by twelve stone lions taken from a Caliphal palace in Córdoba has become synonymous with the Alhambra.

Charles Mauzaisse was a French painter and the son of a painter. He emigrated to Spain in 1857 and signed the visitors’ log at the Alhambra on the 29th of January. After a peripatetic period traveling through southern Spain, he settled in Granada permanently, becoming one of the city’s few foreigners to become a local professional photographer. As a portrait photographer, he offered his clientele their likenesses on oilcloth, paper, glass, and ivory. He soon expanded his repertoire to views of the city and its architectural monuments, especially the Alhambra, catering to foreign visitors’ whims and custom requests and the booming tourist trade. In 1862, he returned from a visit to France with the latest advances in the photographic field.

From this date to the beginning of the 1880s, he made many photographs. However, their dispersal has left scant remnants in public collections. The Royal Palace in Madrid owns an album with 40 of Mauzaisse’s photos. He dedicated it to María de las Mercedes de Orleans y Bórbon on her marriage in 1878 to King Alfonso XII of Spain. Mauzaisse’s photography conjoined with his activity as a painter. Art deeply entered him as the son of Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse (1784-1844), a prolific if minor French artist. By 1870, Charles established himself as a painter as well as a photographer in the Alhambra. He reportedly maintained close contact with French artists like Henry Regnault (1843-1871), whom he entertained on his way to Morocco. Recent research has shown that Gustave Doré used photos by Mauzaisse as the basis for his engraved illustrations in several publications.

In July 1871, Mauzaisse photographed the Fortuny-Madrazo family in the Alhambra when they gathered in Granada to celebrate the birth of Fortuny’s son, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. Unfortunately, Charles Mauzaisse may have died in the cholera epidemic that swept through Andalucía in 1885.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'The Palace of Monserrate, Sintra, Portugal' 1869

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
The Palace of Monserrate, Sintra, Portugal
1869
Albumen silver photograph
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

“Sargent swept over America in a cloud of glory, and the dust never settled; it was stirred up even more, eagerly anticipating his return when he left for Spain. He wrote to Mrs. Gardner from Madrid (16 June [1903]), ‘I am leaving Madrid for Portugal and out of the way places and am not likely to be back for three weeks or a month’.” (Stanley Olson, John Singer Sargent: His Portrait, New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2001, p. 227)

Architect James Knowles designed this eclectic palace in 1858 for Francis Cook, the 1st Viscount of Monserrate, a wealthy British textile merchant, industrialist, and great art collector. Knowles modified an existing Neo-Gothic mansion built in the late 18th century on the ruins of an ancient chapel and added a curious mixture of Neo-Manueline, Neo-Mudéjar, Neo-Mughal, and Neo-Renaissance design elements. The result is an example of the innovative Romantic architecture that thrived in Sintra. The Portuguese court established a luxurious summer retreat in Sintra with views of the Atlantic from the cool foothills north of Lisbon. In 1809, the poet Byron visited the site of the future palatial villa and published his impressions of its natural beauty in his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Francis Cook installed a large botanical garden on the property that is still renowned for its diverse and exotic plants and trees. In the Laurent photo, the tops of Araucaria conifers native to Chile rise in the lower left corner.

Juan Laurent, noted French photographer, established a studio in Madrid in 1856. He is recognised for his architectural and landscape scenes of Spain and Portugal as well as his extensive documentation of the collections of the Prado Museum and the Royal Armory in Madrid. By the 1860s he was the proprietor of Laurent y Cia, the largest photographic publishing house in Spain. Laurent’s prints and albums were marketed to a wealthy clientele through his gallery in Paris and distributed in England by Marion & Co. of London. (Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, vol. 2, pp. 829-830).

The collodion glass negative used to print this photograph is in the Ruiz Vernacci photo archive in the Spanish Culture Ministry in Madrid; VN-06923.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'The Fountain of Narcissus, Garden of the Prince, Palace of Aranjuez' c. 1880s

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
The Fountain of Narcissus, Garden of the Prince, Palace of Aranjuez
c. 1880s
Albumen silver photograph printed from a Gramstorff collodion negative
Boston: Soule later Gramstorff Art Publishing (firm) copying 1863 photograph by J. Laurent
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

This small nineteenth-century albumen print is from the Gramstorff Collection. The department of image collections also has the collodion glass plate negative used to print it (Gramstorff 5754). The Soule (later Gramstorff) Art Publishing Company of Boston (active 1859 – c. 1906) was a purveyor of art, architecture, and topographical photographs specialising in Europe and the American West. The Soule Company acquired original photos from American and European art publishers and then copied them in their Boston workrooms for distribution in the United States. This small-format photograph is a copy by Soule of a larger albumen photograph by the Juan Laurent company of Madrid and Paris. However, the Madrid company may not have authorised Soule’s copies of original Laurent photographs for sale in the United States.

Photographers during this period followed murky standards, and John Soule appears to have been no exception, publishing images by other American photographers without crediting them. The Laurent company found it necessary to file a legal injunction to remedy a piracy case in Cádiz in 1883. Glass negative 5754, like many others in the Gramstorff Collection, is double printed with the same image.

Juan Laurent, noted French photographer who resided in Spain for 43 years, established a studio in Madrid in 1856. He is recognised for his architectural and landscape scenes of Spain and Portugal as well as his extensive documentation of the collections of the Prado Museum and the Royal Armory in Madrid. By the 1860s he was the proprietor of Laurent y Cia., the largest photographic publishing house in Spain. Laurent’s prints and albums were marketed to a wealthy clientele through his gallery in Paris and distributed in England by Marion & Co. of London. (Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, vol. 2, pp. 829-830).

During Laurent’s 1863 photographic campaign in Aranjuez, he remembered that earlier French travel writers had considered the gardens of the royal palace there particularly lovely. In 1855, author Antoine de Latour described the palace as the ‘Versailles of Madrid’ and its gardens as spring oases. In his photo of the Garden of the Prince, Laurent seems to signal its similarity with French palace gardens.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'Patio of the Acequia in the Generalife, Granada' c. 1881

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
Patio of the Acequia in the Generalife, Granada
c. 1881
Albumen silver photograph
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

 

The narrow rectangular canal (acequia) with water jets pictured in this photograph was one of the primary conduits for the Alhambra’s water supply. The Nasrids, after diverting water from the Darro River six kilometres away, brought it by aqueduct to the Generalife, the summer palace in the cool woods above the Alhambra. From its entry point in the Generalife, the water fell to the main complex of palaces, buildings, and gardens below. The system was a marvel of Arab hydraulic engineering.

Text from the National Gallery of Art Library

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer) 'Inhabitants of Toledo' c. 1880s

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer)
Inhabitants of Toledo
c. 1880s
in Spain: Toledo, Cordova, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona (1879/1894?), plate 23 from first of two albums of 189 albumen silver photographs
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer) 'Inhabitants of Toledo' c. 1880s

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer)
Inhabitants of Toledo
c. 1880s
in Spain: Toledo, Cordova, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona (1879/1894?), plate 24 from first of two albums of 189 albumen silver photographs
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer) 'Inhabitants of Toledo' c. 1880s

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer)
Inhabitants of Toledo
c. 1880s
in Spain: Toledo, Cordova, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona (1879/1894?), plate 25 from first of two albums of 189 albumen silver photographs
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer) 'Inhabitants of Toledo' c. 1880s

 

Casiano Alguacil Blázquez (1832-1914, photographer)
Inhabitants of Toledo
c. 1880s
in Spain: Toledo, Cordova, Granada, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona (1879/1894?), plate 58 from first of two albums of 189 albumen silver photographs
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer) 'Inhabitants of Quero, Toledo Province' 1878

 

Juan Laurent (1816-1886, photographer)
Inhabitants of Quero, Toledo Province
1878
in Burgos, Madrid, Toledo, Escorial, Cordoba y Sevilla (1878/1890), plate 58 from album of 103 albumen silver photographs
Madrid: J. Laurent (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

T. E. Mott (active 1910s - 1920s, photographer) 'John Singer Sargent's "El Jaleo" (1882) in the Spanish Cloister, Fenway Court' c. 1922

 

T. E. Mott (active 1910s – 1920s, photographer)
John Singer Sargent’s “El Jaleo” (1882) in the Spanish Cloister, Fenway Court
c. 1922
Gelatin silver DOP photograph from an album of 55 views of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Boston: Thomas E. Mott & Son (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections

 

J. E. Purdy (1859-1933, photographer) 'John Singer Sargent' 1903

 

J. E. Purdy (1859-1933, photographer)
John Singer Sargent
1903
Cabinet card-mounted gelatin silver DOP photograph
Boston: J. E. Purdy (firm)
National Gallery of Art Library, Department of Image Collections
Hertzmann Collection of Photographs of American Artists

 

 

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05
Nov
22

Exhibition: ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 15th July – 6th November 2022

Curators: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

 

Ghosts in the machine

In a way that Plato would recognise with his perfect forms (abstract yet perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space and live on a spiritual plane behind the representation of a physical reality), I feel as though Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) has existed outside of time – a model of directness that was always there – in a timeless way, before the actual concept emerged into consciousness in the 1920s German art tradition.

German photographers Bernd & Hiller Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) were devoted to the ideals of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) and their work evolved from these older traditions of objective photography as practiced by artists such as August Sander (German, 1876-1964) and Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932) during the 1920s. The typologies that the Bechers collected – their beautiful, multiple, conceptual, objective, documentary fine art ‘record photographs’ – made them among the most important figures in postwar German photography.

Their teaching at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s lead to the formation of the Dusseldorf School of Photography which refers to a group of photographers who studied under the artist duo who also shared (and then modified) their aesthetic – a commitment to controlled objectivity and a documentary orientation. These important next generation artists included people such as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth. The Bechers influence on contemporary documentary fine art photography continues today.

“The Bechers specialized in the photography of anonymous industrial sites and structures, methodically employing the same neutral perspective in each image, as in Water Towers. The nine nineteenth-century metal water towers are displayed in a grid as a single work, the black-and-white images revealing the differences between objects that had an identical function, and so bestowing an aesthetic value on them.”1

Here a definition of typology may be useful. ‘Typology’ is the study and interpretation of types and symbols, a classification according to a general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences. In this sense, the Becher’s photographs of industrial archetypes displayed in grids are excavations of historical types, representations of both pattern (type, grid) and randomness (interpretation, aesthetics). What does this mean? According to Katherine Hayles, pattern (in this case grids of photographs of the same archetype) cannot exist without its opposite, randomness, enacted through mutation of the code.

“Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic… It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can no longer be sustained… The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”2

The pattern of the Bechers photographs are the grids, the randomness evidenced as we move in to observe individual images within the grid, for every water tower is different and its own form… and then we pull back to compare one image with another, one mutation with another. As we move closer the individual image becomes whole in its own right, but contains within the pictorial frame evidence of the subjects mutation through decay, evidence of an industrial revolution and means of production that is now archaic and arcane. It is as though we are looking at a fractal in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, but which in fact describe partly random or chaotic phenomena, the seeds of their own mutation. And the possibility for mutation within the text is enhanced and heightened by long coding chains, such as large typologies of objects and large grids of images.

As much as the Bechers objective photographs seek a cool sameness, they undermine their own project by their photographs inherent subversiveness. It’s as though the beauty of their object of desire is being played off against a rage against the machine, a critique of what industrialisation is doing to the divine landscape of the earth.

Of course images are always seen in context which, together with their formal characteristics and conditions, limits the meanings available from them at any one moment. As Annette Kuhn observes, “Meanings do not reside in images, then: they are circulated between representation, spectator and social function.”3 We understand the Bechers images then, through a representation of reality which always and necessarily entails, “the use of the codes and conventions of the available cultural forms of presentation. Such forms restrict and shape what can be said by and / or about any aspect of reality in a given place in a given society at a given time, but if that seems like a limitation on saying, it is also what makes saying possible at all.”4 Richard Dyer continues,

“I accept that one apprehends reality only through representations of reality, through texts, discourse, images; there is no such thing as unmediated access to reality. But because one can see reality only through representation, it does not follow that one does not see reality at all. Partial – selective, incomplete, from a point of view – vision of something is not no vision of it whatsoever.”4

Despite the Bechers attempt to catalogue vast typologies, there is no order without disorder. Their vision, and our vision, is only ever selective, incomplete and from a point of view. Much as they desire an enchantment of the subject so that the object of desire falls under their spell in order to validate its presence, so there is no single determinate meaning to any presentation of their work, for people make sense of images in different ways, according to the cultural codes available to them. “What is re-presented in representation is not directly reality itself but other representations. The analysis of images always needs to see how any given instance is embedded in a network of other instances…”4

The ghosts in the machine of the Bechers networks, those random bits of code that lurk behind a not so perfect representation, group together to form unexpected protocols seen from different points of view. “Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul.” (Asimov)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ Anonymous. “A Movement in a Moment: The Düsseldorf School,” on the Phaidon website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022

2/ Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 33.

3/ Annette Kuhn. The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985, p. 6.

4/ Richard Dyer. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3.

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

 

 

“I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. The French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size… To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.”

.
Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 20/10/2022

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bernd & Hilla Becher' at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bernd & Hilla Becher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art showing at centre, Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium 1983, below
Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen/The Met

00 Basic Forms
01 Framework Houses
02 Early Work
03 Industrial Landscapes
04 Zeche Concordia
05 Art and Evolution
06 Typologies

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. (60.6 × 50.4cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernhard and Hilla Becher are among the most important figures in postwar German photography. For the last thirty years, the artists have examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses. Photographing against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, the artists treat these forgotten structures as the exotic specimens of a long-dead species.

 

 

The renowned German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) changed the course of late twentieth-century photography. Working as a rare artist couple, they focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fuelled the modern era. Their seemingly objective style recalled nineteenth- and early twentieth-century precedents but also resonated with the serial approach of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, it challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography.

Using a large-format view camera, the Bechers methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their rigorous, standardised practice allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between four and thirty photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

This posthumous retrospective celebrates the Bechers’ remarkable achievement and is the first ever organised with full access to the artists’ personal collection of working materials and their comprehensive archive.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1955-1956

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1955-1956
Graphite and watercolour on paper
16 5/16 × 16 5/16 in. (41.5 × 41.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The earliest surviving independent works by Bernd Becher are several rare drawings and photocollages of the Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, made before the formation of his artistic partnership with Hilla Wobeser in 1959. These include the works presented on this wall and directly opposite. They reveal the artist’s lifelong interest in the accurate description of mining and manufacturing structures familiar to him from his childhood. Here, Bernd takes special care to focus on the mine’s wooden framework features and its idiosyncratic winding tower, which rises above the buildings like an enormous windblown flag.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1957

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1957
Collage of five gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 15 3/4 × 11 3/4 in. (40 × 29.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) '[Assemblage of Pipes]' 1964 or later

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
[Assemblage of Pipes]
1964 or later
Gelatin silver prints with graphite
Sheet: 14 3/8 × 13 1/16 in. (36.5 × 33.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

This exceptional assemblage includes three razor-cut photographs of blast-furnace pipes braided together into a handsome knot. Part Giorgio de Chirico (one of the artist’s favourite painters), part pretzel, the metaphysical work shows Bernd Becher’s playful sense of humour and appreciation for the complexity and visual wonderment of industrial forms.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Mountain Elm Leaf]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Mountain Elm Leaf]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 6 15/16 in. (23.7 × 17.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In these studies of tree leaves, Hilla Becher is operating in a long tradition of natural realism that connects her work to that of many earlier German artists, including the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt and the printed botanical and zoological studies of Ernst Haeckel (see display case). What was important to Blossfeldt, Haeckel, and the Bechers was not simple exactitude but a particular type of graphic description and presentation that could reveal the unique, often quirky, and at times humorous structure of any form.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Spruce Branch]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Spruce Branch]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/16 in. (24 × 17.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015) '[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]' 1961

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015)
[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]
1961
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 × 11 7/8 in. (39 × 30.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

 

Even after the establishment of the Bechers’ professional partnership in 1959, Hilla continued to accept commission work. She produced this study of the inner architecture of a seashell as a graphic for a display of industrial design at a German trade fair in Khartoum. This vintage photograph was copied and used by the pavilion designer as oversize enlargements. Hilla also documented the interior and exterior of the innovative prefabricated shed pavilion with its lively metal banding.

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919) "Echinidea. – Igelsterne" 'Kunstformen der Natur' (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919)
“Echinidea. – Igelsterne”
Kunstformen der Natur (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)
1904
Lithograph
Sheet: 13 5/8 × 10 1/4 in. (34.6 × 26cm)
Joyce Frank Menschel Library, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

For both research purposes and aesthetic pleasure, Hilla Becher assembled a collection of illustrated books dedicated to scientific classification. None on the theme of biological order was more important to the artists’ development than Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 Kunstformen der Natur. The plate from a disbound volume presented here shows a typological comparison of sea urchins and sand dollars.

 

 

From July 15 to November 6, 2022, the renowned American museum is showing a retrospective of the important artist couple in cooperation with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher, Dusseldorf, and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne.

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007, 1934-2015) are among the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, their works have provided decisive impetus for photography, art and also generally for dealing with our culture, economy, science and society. For more than 50 years, the artist couple has devoted themselves to the subject of the industrial landscape, the functional buildings and constructions of the mining industry in Western Europe and North America. They created countless black-and-white photographs, which they took with their large-format cameras, of winding towers, blast furnaces, water and cooling towers, coal bunkers, gas tanks, half-timbered houses, entire industrial plants and landscapes. The photographs show precise, at the same time analytical views and individual forms, which Bernd and Hilla Becher subjected to a comparative analysis. So-called typologies, unfolding photographic sets or also large-format typologically conceived individual photographs were the results of their collaboration, which they exhibited internationally and published in monographs. Works that received a special appreciation under the term “Anonymous Sculptures” and attained top-class awards.

The method used by the Bechers can be regarded as style-defining. It transformed the descriptive, objective view of photography of the 19th and early 20th century, which the artist couple highly valued, into a new era, integrating it into clearly sequenced series of images and thus at the same time pointing to perspectives of minimal and conceptual art, which further underscores the innovative power of their work.

Between 1976 and 1996 Bernd Becher taught at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf. Numerous well-known photographers and artists emerged from his photography class. As of the 1960s Bernd and Hilla Becher had their studio in Dusseldorf. Today the studio is being continued as the Bernd & Hilla Becher Studio by their son, estate administrator and artist Max Becher. From 1995 until their death, the artist couple worked together with Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, from which the Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive emerged. The majority of the exhibition is furnished from this collection, including numerous previously little-shown and unknown materials by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Overall, the retrospective, which will be on view in a second venue at the SFMoMA between December 17, 2022 and April 2, 2023, introduces all of the artist couple’s areas of work.

The exhibition was curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
1978
Chromogenic print
4 3/8 × 3 7/16 in. (11.1 × 8.8cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany' 1979

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany
1979
Gelatin silver print
4 3/4 × 5 9/16 in. (12 × 14.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Their camera’s lens, facing Hilla, has been raised higher than the film plane that’s facing Bernd, a trick that lets them capture the tops of tall structures.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1981

 

Unknown photographer
Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1981
Instant diffusion transfer print (Polaroid)
2 7/8 × 3 3/4 in. (7.3 × 9.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands 1968

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
1968
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 34 5/8 × 24 3/16 in. (88 × 61.5cm)
Frame: 36 15/16 × 26 7/16 in. (93.8 × 67.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher were notoriously exacting about how their photographs were constructed in the camera, printed in the darkroom, and sequenced and reproduced in their many publications. Interestingly, they were rather generous with how and where their photographs were used in other printed materials, such as promotional leaflets, invitations, and exhibition posters. The posters gathered in this exhibition display a variety of typographic treatments and arrangements.

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden 1970

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
1970
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 39 5/16 × 27 1/2 in. (99.8 × 69.8cm)
Frame: 41 9/16 × 29 3/4 in. (105.6 × 75.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany 2005

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
2005
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 46 7/8 × 33 1/16 in. (119 × 84cm)
Frame: 49 1/16 × 35 5/16 in. (124.6 × 89.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd & Hilla Becher, First Posthumous Retrospective of the Highly Influential Photographers to Open at The Met July 15

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) are widely considered the most influential German photographers of the postwar period. Working as a rare artist couple, they developed a rigorous practice focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fueled the modern era. Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on July 15, 2022, Bernd & Hilla Becher features some 200 works of art and is the artists’ first posthumous retrospective of their 50-year career. It is organised with full access to the Becher’s comprehensive archive and personal collection of working materials and is the first American retrospective since 1974 (when their mature style was still evolving).

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel, the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, the Edward John & Patricia Rosenwald Foundation, and Linda Macklowe. It is organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher and Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher changed the course of late 20th-century photography, and their groundbreaking work continues to influence artists to this day,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “It is a privilege to present this first posthumous retrospective and to celebrate their legacy and remarkable artistic achievement.”

 

Exhibition Overview

The Bechers seemingly objective aesthetic looked back to 19th- and early 20th-century precedents but also resonated with the serial, premeditated progressions of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, their aesthetic challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography. The artists used a large-format view camera – similar to those used by 19th-century photographers such as the Bisson Frères in France and Carleton Watkins in the American West – and spurned the handheld, 35 mm roll-film cameras of the type preferred by journalists and pre- and postwar artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. They worked exclusively with black-and-white photographic materials, intentionally avoiding the medium’s inevitable move to colour that took place during the 1960s and 1970s, and methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their standardised approach allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between 4 and 30 photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

The Bechers had a direct and profound influence on several generations of students at the renowned art academy Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Bernd was appointed the first professor of photography in 1976. Among the members of the so-called Becher School or Düsseldorf School of Photography are some of the most recognised German artists of the past 40 years, such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Ruff.

Featured in the exhibition alongside the individual and grids of photographs for which the Bechers are best known are extraordinary works in photography and other media executed by them before and after the formation of their creative partnership in 1959. These rarely seen lithographs, collages, photographs, ink and pencil sketches, Polaroids, and personal snapshots offer a deep understanding of the artists’ working methods and intellectual processes.

Following its debut at The Met, the exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where it will be on view from December 17, 2022 through April 2, 2023. Bernd & Hilla Becher is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, with assistance from Virginia McBride, Research Assistant in the Department of Photographs, both at The Met. The Met developed the exhibition with Max Becher, the artists’ son, and with Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, director of the Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, where the artists’ vast photographic print archive is preserved.

The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication, the first posthumous monograph published on the Bechers. It features essays by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl; Dr. Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and an expert on the Bechers; and Lucy Sante, arts critic, essayist, artist, and visiting professor of writing and photography at Bard College. The publication also includes an extensive interview with Max Becher that, together with the essays, introduces and surveys the Bechers’ photographs and the significance of their achievement over a remarkably productive half-century career. The catalogues is made possible by the Mary C. and James W. Fosburgh Publications Fund.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)' 1968-1993

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)
1968-1993
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Such series may have been less about the glories of heavy industry than its approaching demise in the West.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1983
Gelatin silver print
23 1/8 × 18 1/4 in. (58.8 × 46.4cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The buildings Bernd and Hilla Becher chose to photograph were meant to be altered or demolished when superseded technologically. Given the planned obsolescence of their subjects, the artists’ timing played an important role in the success of their practice. In one of their last books, Industrial Landscapes (2002), they commented: “Once we were in northern France, where we found a wonderful headgear [the top of a blast furnace] – a veritable Eiffel Tower. When we arrived the weather was hazy and not ideal for our work so we decided to postpone taking the photos for a day. When we arrived the next day, it had already been torn down, the dust was in the air.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Gravel Plants' 1988-2001

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plants
1988-2001
Gelatin silver prints

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany' 1989

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany
1989
Gelatin silver print
24 3/16 × 19 3/16 in. (61.4 × 48.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bernd and Hilla Becher completed a thorough documentation of the many gravel plants in and near Günzburg, a small city on the Danube River in Bavaria. This oddly shaped yet functional building was used as a stone breaker to produce gravel, the still-lucrative industrial material required for making roads and high-quality concrete. The asymmetrical facade delights the eye, recalling the Bechers’ frequently stated agenda: “We were fascinated above all by the shape of technical architecture, and hardly by its history.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1965

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany
1965
Gelatin silver print
23 5/8 x 18 1/4 in. (60.5 x 46.4cm)
Collection of James Kieth Brown and Eric Diefenbach

 

 

Influenced by the formal rigour and conceptual methods of pre-World War II artists, such as August Sander and Walker Evans, Bernd and Hilla Becher were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors, such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. They treated their subject matter – the disappearing industrial architecture of the West – as “anonymous sculpture.” Here, a fabulous tower used to cool water at the Mont Cenis colliery rises from the ground like a modernist top hat made for a wooden giant. In 1978, just thirteen years after the Bechers visited the busy complex, it closed permanently, ending more than one hundred years of coal extraction on the site.

The Bechers photographed against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, using an old-fashioned tripod-mounted view camera of the kind used by Eugène Atget and Walker Evans. They treated their subjects as “anonymous sculpture” (the name of their first monograph) that could only be fully rendered through either multiple views from different perspectives or more often, through the typological accumulation and serial presentation of multiple specimens. Although they were artists not scientists, the Bechers used an almost Linnean system of classification – another important 19th century precedent which they made resolutely modern.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14 5/8 × 11 3/4 in. (37.1 × 29.9cm)
Gift of the LeWitt Family, in memory of Bernd and Hilla Becher, 2018

 

 

As both artists and professors at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, the husband-and-wife team of Bernd and Hilla Becher have influenced an entire generation of German photographers with their typological approach to the medium, in which a single archetypal subject is described through an accumulation of diverse examples. For more than three decades, they have systematically examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses, all recorded against a blank sky and without expressive effects. As it developed in the 1960s, the Bechers’ project chimed with Conceptual Art in its emphasis on impersonal series as well as with older traditions of objective photography as practiced by such artists such as August Sander and Karl Blossfeldt.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

The Bechers’ purpose has always been to make the clearest possible photographs of industrial structures. They are not interested in making euphemistic, socio-romantic pictures glorifying industry, nor doom-laden spectacles showing its costs and dangers. Equally, they have nothing in common with photographers who seek to make pleasing modernist abstractions, treating the structures as decorative shapes divorced from their function.

The Bechers’ goal is to create photographs that are concentrated on the structures themselves and not qualified by subjective interpretations. To them, these structures are the ‘architecture of engineers’ and their pictures should be seen as the photography of engineers – that is, record pictures. …

[Record photographers are the unsung heroes of the history of photography. They are the anonymous commercial photographers who were commissioned to record both great and everyday industrial and civic projects, from the construction of canals to the blooming of floral clocks.]

The Bechers are fascinated by the idiosyncratic appearance of each structure. The mass-produced, design-conscious assemblies devised by architects with an eye on appearance do not appeal as much as those with a mindfulness of function. What interests the Bechers are constructions made by engineers whose plans are pragmatic, where function dictates the form, rather than, as is increasingly the case, the other way round. In the words of Bernd: ‘There is a form of architecture that consists in essence of apparatus, that has nothing to do with design, and nothing to do with architecture either. They are engineering constructions with their own aesthetic.’

Their fascination is rooted in an understanding of the structures. The Bechers are the first to acknowledge the primarily functional role of the constructions, that their existence is justified solely by their industrial performance, and that once this has been superseded the structures will be modified or demolished. They liken the way a blast furnace develops over time, as furnaces and pipework are added, to the organic but apparently chaotic growth of a medieval city. This purpose-led rationale is what attracts them. They refer to some of the structures as ‘nomadic architecture’. Once they photographed a blast furnace that was being dismantled by Chinese workers in Luxembourg, who then had to reassemble it in China.

By placing photographs of similar subjects alongside each other, the individual differences emerge, making the fine details in each picture more noticeable, more distinct. Drawing on this, they began exhibiting the pictures as typologies; by the early 1960s they showed their work only in typological groups. Typically, a piece of work would comprise four small prints of, for example, water towers, adjacent to a larger print of one of the four. They would not supply prints of individual pictures; the typology was the work. Later, their typologies contained prints of equal size, measuring 30 cm by 40 cm. It could be three rows of five prints, a grid of nine or, in one case, 28 blast furnaces in three rows; a symphony of industrial structures.

The Bechers’ pictures do not have to be viewed in typologies in order to make sense, as they have validity as individual images. The typology has been developed for two reasons. First, by amassing such a detailed survey of industrial structures they are revealing sets and subsets, much like 19th-century zoologists did. With water towers, for example, there are round steel ones with conical tops, like hats, and semi-circular ones. Others are circular with sloping roofs, or without roofs, or on steel derricks, or brick towers, and so on. The more fine the differences, the better they are illustrated by the typology.

Second, the typology used by the Bechers emphasises the rewards of close scrutiny, and it is this that makes each and every one of their pictures fascinating. By presenting 15 water towers in a grid, the first effect is an imposing mass of industrial structures. You must stand back in order to take them all in as a group, but to look closer at an individual picture it is necessary to draw nearer.

Up close, only one tower is visible at a time. Isolated in pristine, black-and-white definition, this everyday object is revealed as an ‘anonymous sculpture’, an unostentatious but fabulous creation by mankind. To compare it with the others is to stand back again, and from here the impulse is to step up and examine another. Just as the beauty of the individual structure (for that is what they are) is there to see, so together as a typology they are a thrilling spectacle. …

There is a wisdom and honour in the Bechers’ work which frees them from imposing a conditional reading upon the viewer. The wisdom is the methodology they recognise in the ‘neutral’ depiction of record photography. The honour stems from a principle about not imposing their ideas on other people.

Hilla and Bernd both grew up under Adolf Hitler. They saw how he corrupted German art to promote his propaganda. This was particularly pertinent to photography, and it remained tainted after the war; witness the grim examples of Leni Riefensthal’s glorifying images of Nazis and the pseudo-scientific eugenic portrait studies that were published to defend anti-semitism and supremacism. This is why the legacy of August Sander (1876-1964), whose neutral approach to portraiture was damned by the Nazis, is so precious in Germany. It is also why the Bechers’ continuing example is extremely important. …

Because photography has, for so long, been used for commercial reasons, notably in advertising, people are accustomed to absorbing manipulative images, and have come to expect – or even rely on – a conditional presentation. Take away this interpretative control and the viewer is left free, which is unnerving if one is not used to it. This is why some regard the Bechers’ photographs as ‘cold’. There is no editorial, no soundtrack, no suggestions nor judgments. You are left to your own devices.

Of course, their motivations are not invisible, nor their presence unfelt. What does it mean when something ‘rings true’? How is it that one can sense the sincerity in another’s words? Perhaps this lies in the realm of intuition, not explanation. To analyse art is not necessarily to experience it. Sometimes, by focusing on a deliberation of it, one limits the engagement to a cerebral encounter. In the West particularly, we use explanations to try to control the unknown, to make uncertainties certain. Maybe there is a wisdom we have that is not learnt but is within us. Far better to look rather than puzzle, and to open one’s senses to what is there.

Here lies the wonder in the Bechers’ photographs. They are like rounding a hill and seeing a view spread out before you. In Cwmcynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, 1966, a minehead stands above lines of terraced houses in the village. The giant pair of wheels on top of the single-tier steel headframe is an engineer’s structure. A device to do a job, not to win design awards. You could not dream up such structures, neither could you invent, say, your grandparents’ kitchen. These things arise from the conditions in which they are used.

They are the lines on the face of the world. The photographs are portraits of our history. And when the structures have been demolished and grassed over, as though they were never there, the pictures remain.

Michael Collins, “The long look,” Tate Research Publication, 2002 originally published in Tate Magazine issue 1 on the Tate website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Towers (Belgium and France)' 1967-1988

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Towers (Belgium and France)
1967-1988
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 13/16 in. (39.6 × 30cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany' 1963

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany
1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 1/4 in. (39.5 × 28.5cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)' 1963-1980

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)
1963-1980
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Is there some quiet comedy in revealing all the ways industry has managed the single job of storing water?

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)(detail)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

One wall is gridded up with photos of industrial cooling towers, portrayed in wildly detailed black-and-white.

Another gives us 30 different views of blast furnaces, at plants across Western Europe and the United States. You can just about make out each bolt in their twisting pipework.

An entire gallery surveys the vast Concordia coal plant in Oberhausen, Germany: Teeming photos present its gas-storage tanks, its “lean gas generator,” its “quenching tower,” its “coke pushers.”

These and something like another 450 images fill “Bernd & Hilla Becher,” a fascinating, frankly gorgeous show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s curator of photography, Jeff Rosenheim, has organized a thorough retrospective for the Bechers, a German couple who made some of the most influential art photos of the past half-century. Bernd (1931-2007) and Hilla (1934-2015) mentored generations of students at Düsseldorf’s great Kunstakademie, whose alumni include major photographic artists such as Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer.

But for all the heft of the heavy industry on view in the Met show – it’s easy to imagine the stink and smoke and racket that pressed in on the Bechers as they worked – you come away with an overall impression of lightness, of delightful order, even sometimes of gentle comedy.

Wall after wall of gridded grays soothe the eye and calm the soul, like the orderly, light-filled abstractions of Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt. The very fact of gathering 16 different water towers, from both sides of the Atlantic, onto a single museum wall helps to domesticate them, removing their industrial angst and original functions and turning them into something like curios, or collectibles. A catalog essay refers to the Bechers’ “rigorous documentation of thousands of industrial structures,” which is right – but it’s the rigour of a trainspotter, not an engineer. Despite their concrete grandeur, the assorted water towers come off as faintly ridiculous: Whether you’re collecting cookie jars or vintage wines – or shots of water towers – it’s as much about our human instinct to amass and organise as it is about the actual things you collect.

Consider the 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) that launched Andy Warhol’s pop career, which are a vital precedent for the Bechers’ ordered seriality. You can read the Soup Cans as a critical portrayal of American consumerism, but a catalog of canned soups also reads as a quiet joke, at least when it’s presented for the sake of art, not shopping. Ditto, I think, for the Bechers’ famous “typologies” of industrial buildings, presented without anything like an industrial goal.

Indeed, the one thing you don’t come away with from the Becher show is real knowledge of mechanical engineering, or coal processing, or steel making. In long-ago student days, I cut out and framed a wallful of images from the Bechers’ glorious book of blast-furnace photos. (Their art has always existed as much in their books as in exhibitions.) After living with my furnaces for a decade or so, I can’t say I could have passed a quiz from Smelting 101.

Early coverage referred to the Bechers as “photographer-archaeologists” and the Met’s catalog talks about how they revealed the “functional characteristics of industrial structures.” There are certainly parallels between the preternatural clarity and unmediated “objectivity” of their images and earlier, purely technical and scientific photos meant to teach about the constructions and processes of industry. The Bechers admired such pictures. But however systematic their own project might seem, its goal was art, which means it was always bound to let function and meaning float free.

I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size.

The Bechers weren’t the only artists working that seam. Their era’s conceptualists also played games with science and industry. When John Baldessari had himself photographed throwing three balls into the air so they’d form a straight line, he was simulating experimentation, not aiming for any real experimental result: The repeated throwing and its failure was the point, not the straight line that could never get formed, anyway. When the Bechers’ friend Robert Smithson poured oceans of glue down a hillside or bulldozed dirt onto a shed until its roof cracked, he was mimicking the moves of heroic construction, not aiming to build anything.

What made the Bechers different from their peers is that they did their mimicking from the inside: They used the language of advanced photographic technology to inhabit the technophilic world they portrayed. Their photos are almost as constructed as any “lean gas generator” they might depict. The just-the-facts-ma’am objectivity of their images is only achieved through serious photographic artifice.

Take the Bechers’ four-square photos of four-square workers’ houses. Several houses are photographed from so close that, standing right in front of them, you’d never take in their entire facades at one glance, as the Bechers do in their images. It takes a wide-angle lens to allow that trick, and only if it’s installed on the kind of technical view camera whose bellows lets lens and film slide in opposite directions. That’s how the Bechers manage to line up our eyes with the top step on a stoop (we see it edge-on) while also catching the home’s gables, high above.

The preternatural level of detail on view and its glorious range of grays and blacks require negatives the size of a man’s hand, a tripod as big as a sapling, lens filters and an advanced darkroom technique. And the couple were relying on such labour-intensive technology at just the moment when most of their photographic peers, and millions of average people, had moved on to cameras and film that let them shoot on the fly, in lab-processed colour. With the Bechers, the “decisive moment” of 35 mm photography gets replaced by a gray-on-gray stasis that feels as though it could last forever – as though it’s as immovable as the steel girders it depicts.

But, in fact, those steel girders were more time-bound than the Bechers’ photos let on. “Just as Medieval thinking manifested itself in Gothic cathedrals, our era reveals itself in technological equipment and buildings,” the Bechers once declared, yet the era they revealed wasn’t really the one they were working in. In many cases, their factories and plants and mines were about to close when the Bechers shot them – a few had already been abandoned – as Western economies made the switch to services and design and computing. The outdatedness of the Bechers’ technique matches up with their subjects. Both represent a last-gasp moment in the “industrial” revolution, which is why there’s something almost poignant about this show.

One of its most revealing moments involves a film, not a photo, and it’s not even by the power couple. The Bechers’ young son, Max, who has since become a noted artist in his own right, once captured his parents in moving colour as they set out to document silos in the American Midwest. Max filmed Bernd and Hilla unloading their heavy-duty equipment, still much as it was in Victorian times, from a classic Volkswagen camper of the 1960s. It was an absurdly underpowered machine, but who could resist its colourful paint job or its mod lines and stylings?

To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.

Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 30/07/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands' 1968

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands
1968
Gelatin silver print
24 in. × 19 1/2 in. (61 × 49.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Lime, an important building material since ancient times, is used in the production of mortar and cement. Here, the Bechers focused their attention on six towering brick chimneys that look as much like sprouting asparagus as utilitarian structures. The artists chose a similar view of lime kilns for the cover image of Anonyme Skulpturen (1970), their ambitious first publication. The book presents comparative sequences of different industrial forms, from kilns and gasometers to cooling towers, blast furnaces, and winding towers.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany
1983
24 in. × 19 13/16 in. (60.9 × 50.3cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany' 1962

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany
1962
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 7/8 × 11 5/8 in. (40.3 × 29.6cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher are the most important figures in European photography since 1950. Influenced by the formal rigour and typological method of prewar artists such as August Sander and Walker Evans, they were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt and paved the way for the medium’s integration into the broader arena of contemporary art. As professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, their influence was paramount on the celebrated generation of photographers known as the “Düsseldorf School” such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 13/16 × 11 11/16 in. (40.2 × 29.7cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (40 x 29.2cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function' 1961-1972

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function
1961-1972
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

 

These photographs show that the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher were sometimes more interested in aesthetic form than in what industry actually does.

Bernd and Hilla Becher found artistic inspiration in the under appreciated beauty of the built environment, specifically, commonplace industrial and residential architecture. The Bechers’ use of typological ordering, as seen here in a grid of fifteen framework-house studies, can be traced to Hilla’s interest in the concepts of taxonomy and morphology, which are systems of biological classification based on shape and function. They called their assemblages “typologies” and used this effective graphic structure to compare similar and different forms, as would a researcher studying a collection of fossils or butterflies.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg' 1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
1979
Gelatin silver print
17 5/8 × 23 1/2 in. (44.8 × 59.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium' 1971

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium
1971
Gelatin silver print
19 in. × 23 1/4 in. (48.2 × 59cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
19 3/8 × 23 7/8 in. (49.2 × 60.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

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14
Aug
22

Review: ‘WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture’ at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th March – 21st August 2022

 

Entrance of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Entrance of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The black and white show

This is a challenging and stimulating exhibition at NGV Australia, Federation Square that attempts to answer the question: “who are you” when coming to terms with what it is to be an Australian.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is one of the most comprehensive explorations of portraiture ever mounted in Australia and the first exhibition to bring together the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra… [it] considers portraiture in Australia across time and media, as well as the role of the portraiture genre in the development of a sense of Australian national identity… The exhibition also questions what actually constitutes portraiture by examining the surprising and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness… Presented across five thematic sections, the exhibition raises challenging and provocative questions about who we are and how we view others – historically, today and into the future…

The exhibition opens by considering the connection between people and place, reflecting on the relationship between artists, sitters and the environment, as well as the personification of the natural world… A further section explores the artistic tradition of the self-portrait and portraits of artists, as well as how this convention has been subverted or challenged by contemporary artists working today… Ideas of intimacy and alienation are juxtaposed through images of family and community presented alongside those of vulnerability and isolation… The exhibition also explores portraiture’s surprising capacity to reveal the inner worlds and mindsets of both the sitter and the artist… The final section of the exhibition interrogates Australian icons, identities and how we construct them.” (Press release)

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This is an ambitious agenda for several large exhibitions, let alone cram so many ideas into one exhibition. And in the end the central question “who are you” is unknowable, unanswerable in any definitive way… for it all depends on your ancestry, and from what point of view you are looking and in what context – and these conditions can change from minute to minute, day to day, and era to era. Identity is always partially fixed and fluid at one and the same time. It is always a construction, a work in progress, governed by social and cultural relations.

“Identity is formed by social processes. Once crystallized, it is maintained, modified, or even reshaped by social relations. The social processes involved in both the formation and the maintenance of identity are determined by the social structure. Conversely, the identities produced by the interplay of the organism, individual consciousness and social structure react upon the given social structure, maintaining it, modifying it, or even reshaping it.”1

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Identity construction is a self-referential system where identities are produced out of social systems. They (identities) then act upon those very systems to alter them, and then those systems re-act again forming anew, an ever changing identity. “The task of identity formation is to develop a stable, coherent picture of oneself that includes an integration of one’s past and present experiences and a sense of where one is headed in the future.”2 But that identity formation, while seeking to be stable, is both multiple and contestatory. It is through those contests that a future sense of self can challenge hegemonic power differentials. As Judith Butler observes,

“Thus every insistence on identity must at some point lead to a taking stock of the constitutive exclusions that reconsolidate hegemonic power differentials, exclusions that each articulation was forced to make in order to proceed. This critical reflection will be important in order not to replicate at the level of identity politics the very exclusionary moves that initiated the turn to specific identities in the first place … It will be a matter of tracing the ways in which identification is implicated in what it excludes, and to follow the lines of that implication for the map of future community that it might yield.”3

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In other words, learn from the mistakes of the past and don’t let them repeat themselves in future identities! Do not exclude others in order to reconsolidate the hegemonic status quo. But people always form identities based on the “norm” – how can you change that? As A. David Napier states, “We rely, sometimes almost exclusively it seems, upon the construction and reconstruction of an evolutionary(?) sequence of events that simultaneously excludes outsiders and provides some basis for justifying our social rules and actions. Thus, we minimize diversity by reflecting on who we are, by achieving, that is, a self-conscious state that is not only accepted but considered desirable…”4

Critical reflection is thus so important in challenging who we are, both individually and collectively. In this sense, an exhibition like WHO ARE YOU is important in helping to reshape social relations, helping to challenge hegemonic power differentials, which in turn affects our personal identity construction by reflecting on who we are and changing our point of view, so that we become more informed, and more empathetic, towards different cultures and different people. So that we do not exclude other people and other points of view.

But all is not roses and light in this exhibition with regard to exclusion.

Whilst a lot of people acknowledge and empathise with First Nations people we can have NO IDEA of the ongoing pain and hurt centuries of invasion, disenfranchisement, genocide, massacres, Stolen Generation, lack of health care, massive incarceration, suicide rates and shorter life expectancy, land loss, cultural loss that the violence of the white Anglo gaze has inflicted on the oldest living culture on Earth. While there are moves afoot (as there have been for years) for Aboriginal constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament, a permanent body representing First Nations people that would advise government on Indigenous policy; and a treaty that would help secure sovereignty and self-determination, enabling First Nations people make their own decisions and control their own lives, economy and land, free from the effects of changing governments – personally I believe until there is a complete acknowledgement of the pain invasion has caused Aboriginal people by the whole of Australia, nothing will ever change.

Having said that, contemporary Australia is now the most multicultural country it as ever been. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 Census, 27.6 per cent of the population were born overseas and the top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia) were, in order, England, India, China, New Zealand and the Philippines.5 In Australia, 812,000 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 3.2% of the population.6

It is interesting to note that when looking through the art works in this exhibition – nearly all of which can be seen in this posting – how much of it is (historical) white art and how much of it is contemporary Aboriginal art, with a sop being made to art made by, or mentioning, other people including Chinese, Afghan, Muslim and Sudanese. Chinese people have been living in Australia for centuries, Afghan people similarly. Greek and Italian people arrived in droves in the 1950s-1960s, Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, Sudanese, Indian and Sri Lankan people in the late 20th century. More (historical and contemporary) work from these people was needed in this exhibition because they inform the construction of modern Australian identities.

Obviously the inclusion of so much contemporary Aboriginal work is a deliberate curatorial decision, but its disproportionate representation in this exhibition makes it feel like a “catch all”. Why do the curators feel the need to include so much Indigenous work? Is that how they truly see Australian identity? Also, does the inclusion of this art mean it is the best contemporary art that is available in Australia at the moment, or does its inclusion simply exclude other voices from different nationalities and ethnic and religious backgrounds that are just as important in the construction of contemporary Australian identities? While there is no denying the historical significance of invasion there needs to be a balance in such representation, especially in an exhibition purporting to investigate “who are you” over a broad range of references. As it stands the inclusion of so much Indigenous work feels like an agenda, a set point of departure, perhaps even an apologia for white guilt. As the critic John McDonald noted recently, we are living “at a time when museums and commercial galleries have gone completely gaga for such [that is, Aboriginal] work.”

Personally, I would have liked to have seen a greater range of voices expressing themselves in this exhibition. It struck me that the inclusion of so much (historical) white art and so much contemporary Aboriginal art formed a rather limited framework in which to examine “who are you”. Rather, I would have liked a more balanced representation through art of the many voices that contribute to the formation of evolving Australian identities, which ultimately could lead to a greater insight into the construction of our own self-portrait. That is the truly important aspect of any navel gazing exercise.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,450

 

  1. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Allen Lane, London, 1967, p. 194.
  2. Erickson, E. Identity: Youth in Crisis. Norton, New York, 1968
  3. Judith Butler. Bodies That Matter. Routledge, New York, 1993, pp. 118-119
  4. A. David Napier. Foreign Bodies: Performance Art, and Symbolic Anthropology. University of California press, Berkeley, 1992, p.143.
  5. “Cultural diversity: Census” 2021 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website 28/06/2022 [Online] Cited 12/08/2022
  6. “Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary” 2021 on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website 28/06/2022 [Online] Cited 12/08/2022

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing from left to right, Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma Man (2012, below); Karla Dickens’ Mrs Woods and ‘Ere (2013, below); and Kaylene Whiskey’s Seven Sisters Song (2021, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018) 'Magma Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Magma Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
Inkjet print
120.0 x 120.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013
© Polixeni Papapetrou/Administered by VISCOPY, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou’s series The Ghillies shows the artist’s son wearing extreme camouflage costumes that are used by the defence forces to blend in with their environment. The photographs reflect on the passing of childhood, and the journey out of a maternally centred world into a wider existence. Papapetrou proposes that this is a significant moment for many young men as they seek to separate themselves from their mothers, and assume the costumes and identities of masculine stereotypes, often hiding themselves in the process. Papapetrou photographed her children fro most of her career, and explored a range of stereotypes that surround childhood. These works examine the placement of children and adolescents in a society which is determined and defined by adults.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Karla Dickens (Australian / Wiradjuri, b. 1967) 'Mrs Woods and 'Ere' 2013

 

Karla Dickens (Australian / Wiradjuri, b. 1967)
Mrs Woods and ‘Ere
2013
Inkjet print on paper, ed. 3/10
Image: 66.0 x 100.cm
Sheet: 76.5 x 110.0 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
© Karla Dickens/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Tjayanka Woods (c. 1935-2014) was a senior Pitjantjatjara artist, born near Kalaya Pirti (Emu Water) near Mimili and Wataru, South Australia. She was a cultural custodian, leader and held significant knowledges regarding cultural law and medicine. As an artist, Woods often referred to the Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa (Seven Sisters) within her artworks. The Kungkarrangkalpa Tjurkurpa is an epic and ancient creation story revolving around the start cluster, also known as Pleiades. In 2013, Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, spent several weeks with Woods and other senior Pitjantjatjara artists research the creation story. During her time in Pitjantjatjara Country, Dickens photographed Woods as the aware and intelligent cultural leader she was, with dignity and strength.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Kaylene Whiskey (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1976) 'Seven Sisters Song' 2021

 

Kaylene Whiskey (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1976)
Seven Sisters Song
2021
Enamel paint on road sign
120.0 x 180.0cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
© Kaylene Whiskey. Courtesy of the artist, Iwantja Arts and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Kaylene Whiskey seamlessly combines references to daily life in Indulkana with popular culture. Painted on an old road sign, Seven Sisters Song celebrates Whiskey’s witty sense of humour and personal reflection of Kungkarangkalpa Tjukurpa, the Seven Sisters creation story. Imbued within the work themes of sisterhood and kinship bonds, Whiskey brings together two vastly different worlds. Strong female characters including Wonder Woman, Whoopi Goldberg and Dolly Parton are situated within a desert landscape and seen interacting with native plants and wildlife, including traditional Anangu activities like hunting, collecting bush tucker, and cultivating mingkulpa (a native tobacco plant).

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Johannes Heyer (Australian, 1872-1945) 'William Barak at work on the drawing 'Ceremony' at Coranderrk' 1902

 

Johannes Heyer (Australian, 1872-1945)
William Barak at work on the drawing ‘Ceremony’ at Coranderrk
1902
Gelatin silver photograph, sepia toned on paper
8.7 x 8.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with the assistance of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society 2000

 

 

Wurundjeri artist and ngurungaeta (Head Man) William Barak was an important cultural leader, diplomat and activist. Barak lived near Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, near Healesville, from 1863 until 1903, becoming an influential spokesman for the rights of his people and an informant on Wurundjeri cultural lore. The people of Coranderrk, however, were officially forbidden from observing traditional practices, so Barak began recording them in drawings, often using ochre and charcoals to depict ceremonies and aspects of Wurundjeri culture before colonisation. His artworks are significant expressions of cultural practice, and he is regarded as an important figure int he history of Indigenous Australian art.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Beruk (William Barak) (1824-1903), an elder of the Wurundjeri clan of the Woi-worung, was the most famous Aboriginal person in Victoria in the 1890s. After attending the Reverend George Langhorne’s mission school, Barak joined the Native Police in 1844 and remained there until at least 1851. From 1863 until his death he lived at the government reserve at Coranderrk, at a site near the Yarra River in Victoria. The history of the reserve is one of official interference and mismanagement, and Barak played a significant part in representing the wishes of his community to the government. In the decade of the 1880s he made many paintings and artefacts, mostly of Aboriginal ceremonial subjects.

 

Beruk (1824-1903), artist, activist, leader and educator, was a Wurundjeri man of the Woiwurrung people, one of the five Kulin Nations whose Country encompasses Narrm (Melbourne). It is said that Beruk was present at the signing of the so-called treaty with which John Batman reckoned he’d acquired 240,000 hectares of Wurundjeri land in 1835. In reality, the men with whom Batman negotiated, including one of Beruk’s uncles, had not transferred ownership, but merely given Batman permission to stay temporarily. Beruk was given the name William Barak (a European mispronunciation) in 1844 when he joined the Native Police. He was among the group of people from across Victoria who were the first to join the settlement at Coranderrk, near Healesville, established by the Aboriginal Protection Board in 1863 following several years of petitioning by community leaders. Beruk emerged as a leader at Coranderrk, which developed into a self-sufficient agricultural settlement. Following the passing of his cousin Simon Wonga in 1874, Beruk became Ngurungaeta (head man) of the Wurundjeri people. During the same period, when European pastoral interests started lobbying for Coranderrk to be broken up and sold off, Beruk led the campaign to prevent the settlement’s closure. It was gazetted as a ‘permanent reservation’ in 1881.

By this time, Beruk was recognised as a leader of his people and as a revered custodian of language and cultural knowledge. As the people at Coranderrk were officially forbidden from observing their traditional ceremonies, including corroborees, Beruk began recording his knowledge in drawings, utilising introduced methods and materials including paper, cardboard, and watercolour to preserve and communicate important stories and aspects of culture and spirituality. On the one hand, his drawings and the artefacts he made functioned as a commodity and were sold as souvenirs to increasing numbers of tourists. Museums in Europe began acquiring examples of his work in the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, and more significantly, Beruk’s drawings represent a profound assertion of pride in his heritage and identity, and the survival of a rich and complex culture in the face of concerted attempts to diminish it. As Wurundjeri elder and Beruk’s great-great niece Aunty Joy Wandin Murphy says: “We believe that what he wanted was for people to remember those ceremonies, so that if he painted them … then people would always know about the ceremonies on Coranderrk and of Wurundjeri people.”

This photograph of Beruk was taken by Johannes Heyer, a Presbyterian clergyman called to the parish of Yarra Glen and Healesville in 1900. The drawing that Beruk is shown working on in the photograph is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Anonymous text. “William Barak at work on the drawing ‘Ceremony’ at Coranderrk,” on the National Portrait Gallery website Nd [Online] Cited 18/06/2022

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003) 'Migrants arriving in Sydney' 1966

 

David Moore (Australia 1927-2003)
Migrants arriving in Sydney
1966
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1961

 

 

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is the first exhibition to comprehensively bring together the rich portrait holdings of both the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Revealing the artistic synergies and contrasts between the two institutions’ collections, this co-curated exhibition considers portraiture in Australia across time and media.

Through the examination of diverse and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness, WHO ARE YOU will question what actually constitutes portraiture – historically, today and into the future. Examples of some of the more abstract notions of portraits in the exhibition include John Nixon’s Self-portrait, (1990), and Boris Cipusev’s typographic portrait of Jeff from The Wiggles, titled Jeff the wiggle, 2009-2013. Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma man, 2013, a photograph that merges sitter and landscape until the two are almost indecipherable, and Shirley Purdie’s multi-panelled evocation of biography and Country, Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe, 2018, further challenge the conventions of the genre and touch upon the intimate connection between artist, sitter and land. NGV Collection highlights include new acquisitions: Kaylene Whiskey’s Seven Sisters Song, 2021 – a playful take on portraiture by a living artist and Joy Hester’s Pauline McCarthy,1945, a rare example of Hester producing a portrait in oil.

WHO ARE YOU is the largest exhibition of Australian portraiture ever mounted by either the NGV or NPG, and is the first time the two galleries have worked collaboratively on such a large-scale project.

Text from the NGV International website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lloyd Rees' 'Portrait of some rocks' 1948

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Lloyd Rees’ Portrait of some rocks (1948, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lloyd Rees. 'Portrait of some rocks' 1948

 

Lloyd Rees (Australian, 1895-1988)
Portrait of some rocks
1948
Oil on canvas
76.6 x 102.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1948
© Lloyd Rees/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

One of Australia’s leading landscape artists of the mid-twentieth century, Lloyd Rees studied at Brisbane Technical College before moving to Sydney in 1917, where he worked as a commercial illustrator. In the early 1930s he concentrated solely on drawing, particularly the rocky landscapes around Sydney, but by the late 1930s he began painting in an increasingly romantic manner. Rocks were a meaningful subject for Rees because they evoked permanency and represented the constitution of the earth. Rees humanises his subject matter by using the word ‘portrait’ in the title, which suggests the rocks have shifted from inorganic to animate objects.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Marshall Claxton’s An emigrant’s thoughts of home (1859, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Marshall Claxton’s An emigrant’s thoughts of home (1859, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Marshall Claxton (English, 1813-1881, worked in Australia 1850-1854) 'An emigrant's thoughts of home' 1859

 

Marshall Claxton (English, 1813-1881, worked in Australia 1850-1854)
An emigrant’s thoughts of home
1859
Oil on cardboard
60.7 × 47.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1974

 

 

Immigration underlies the European history of Australia. Between 1815 and 1840, more than 58,000 people, predominately from the British Isles, came to Australia in search of a better life. Women migrants were also assisted to curb a gender imbalance in the colonies, to work as domestic servants and to foster marriages and childbirth.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Immigration is central to the history of Australia. The wistful tilt of this young woman’s head and her thoughtful expression are powerful symbols of the intense nostalgia and fear of the unknown experienced by those in search of a new homeland. Despite its apparent simplicity and sentimentality, the painting captures the issues of poverty, deprivation and emigration that people, especially women, faced in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Peter Drew (Australian, b. 1983) 'Monga Khan 1916' 2016, printed 2019

 

Peter Drew (Australian, b. 1983)
Monga Khan 1916
2016, printed 2019
From the Aussie series 2016
Brush and ink on screenprint
Image: 114.5 x 80.5cm
Sheet: 117.5 x 83.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Prints and Drawings, 2020
© Peter Drew

 

 

Monga Khan was a hawker, and one of the thousands of people who applied for an exemption to the White Australia Policy, a law which came into effect in 1901. Exemptions were considered for cameleers, hawkers and other traders who were considered essential workers. Drew created this poster and others in the Aussie series using photographs from the National Archives of Australia, and pasted them around Australia’s cities.

He explains: ‘When you address the public through the street you’re entering into a tradition that emphasises our fundamental freedom of expression, over the value of property. I enjoy examining our collective identities and my aim is always to emphasise the connections that bind us, rather than the fractures that divide us’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Maree Clarke’s Walert – gum barerarerungar (2020-2021, below); and at right, Uta Uta Tjangala’s Ngurrapalangu (1989, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Uta Uta Tjangala (Australian / Puntupi, c. 1926-1990) 'Ngurrapalangu' 1989 (installation view)

 

Uta Uta Tjangala (Australian / Puntupi, c. 1926-1990)
Ngurrapalangu (installation view)
1989
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Elizabeth and Colin Laverty, Governors, 2001
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Uta Uta Tjangala forged a new art form at Papunya during 1971-1972 with startling works such as this one. Working for the first time on a discarded scrap of composition board, artists at Papunya rendered visible and permanent ephemeral designs, formerly made only for use in closed and secret ceremonial contexts on bodies, objects or the ground. The painted designs are closely connected to the artist’s cultural identity, his understanding of Country, and of sacred men’s business, unknowable to uninitiated members of the community.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961) 'Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba' 2020-2021 (installation view)

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961)
Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba (installation view)
2020-2021
Possum pelts
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchase, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Maree Clarke is recognised as one of the most respected possum skin cloak makers and teachers in the world. This work represents the first time Clarke produced a cloak to represent her own ancestral identity. Depicted on the cloak are seven important places, which her ancestors come from: Yorta Yorta Country, Trawlwoolway Country, Boonwurrung Country, Muttu Mutti Country and Wamba Wamba Country, as well as Tiperrary in Ideland, and Dunstable in Britain. Clarke has used a rare green ochre to represent her European ancestors. Together, these seven ancestral sites of significance inform Clarke’s identity.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961) 'Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba' 2020-2021 (installation view detail)

 

Maree Clarke (Australian / Mutti Mutti/Wamba Wamba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwurrung, b. 1961)
Walert – gum barerarerungar: Tipperary, Ireland Dunstable, Britain Yorta Yorta Trawlwoolway Boonwurrung, Muttu Mutti, Wamba Wamba (installation view detail)
2020-2021
Possum pelts
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchase, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2021
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Portraiture

In its uniting of artist and sitter, the self-portrait is an intriguing facet of portraiture. The self-reflection is a format that appears to grant the viewer the assurance of revelation and intimate access to the artist’s psyche. However, what the artist intends to communicate to their audience through portraiture is highly varied, and the message each artist conveys is as individual as the artist themselves. Additionally, there is room for the viewer to question how the artist has chosen to depict their image.

Self-portraiture is a diverse genre: there are myriad ways an artist can present themselves. A typical way for the artist to portray themselves is in the role of ‘the artist’, including in the work a visual clue to their profession – for instance holding a brush or paint palette – or showing themselves at work in the studio. As part of an investigation of self, these representations can also communicate the complexities of status and gender. This selection of works explores what the artists intend to reveal or exclude about themselves through their self-representations, considering he environment in which the artists are placed, and the props and imagery they choose to include in the works.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979) 'Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits)' 2018 (installation view)

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979)
Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits) (installation view)
2018
Twelve of sixteen papercut silhouette drawings
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Brisbane-born Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling) studied at the Queensland College of Art from 1997 to 1999. She began papercutting during a period when she was without access to a studio, and was subsequently awarded grants that enabled her to study the technique in several centres throughout China. Her method and style resemble Foshan papercutting, which is widely practices in the home of her maternal grandparents, in Guangdong province. These papercuts are from a series investigating the lives of Chinese-Australians who flourished prior to the introduction of the White Australia policy. The works connect and juxtapose European silhouette portraiture and Chinese papercutting traditions, exploring the notion that a silhouette profile provides a means of ‘measuring’ a sitter’s character with the totemic and floral symbols evoking personal narratives, identity and professions.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979) 'Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits)' 2018 (installation view detail)

 

Pamela See (Australian, b. 1979)
Making Chinese Shadows (sixteen silhouette portraits) (installation view detail)
2018
Twelve of sixteen papercut silhouette drawings
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

Various unknown photographers (Australian) William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children 1860s-1870s (installation view)

 

Various unknown photographers (Australian)
William and Martha Mary Robertson and their children (installation views)
1860s-1870s
Eight cartes de visite, hand-coloured, contained in red leather presentation case
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Malcolm Robertson in memory of William Thomas Robertson 2018
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

LIU Xiao Xian (Australian born China, b. 1963) 'My other lives, #7' 2000

 

LIU Xiao Xian (Australian born China, b. 1963)
My other lives, #7
2000
From the My other lives series 2000
Type C photograph
102.0 × 145.2cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2002
© LIU Xiao Xian

 

 

Popular in nineteenth-century Australia, stereographs gave the illusion of three dimensions when placed in a handheld viewer. In this work, Liu Xiao Xian enlarges a typical example of this historical form of photographic portraiture and replaces the sitter’s face with his own on one side. Through this double-take, and the playful invitation to imagine an ‘other life’ for this sitter, this work is both a subtle self-portrait and a pointed reminder of the invisibility of the Chinese migrant experience in mainstream conceptions of Australian history and identity.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983) 'Artist and sitter' c. 1938 (installation view)

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983)
Artist and sitter (installation view)
c. 1938
Oil on canvas
122.0 × 94.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1940
© Dr Quentin Noel Porter
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983) 'Artist and sitter' c. 1938

 

A. D. Colquhoun (Australian, 1894-1983)
Artist and sitter
c. 1938
Oil on canvas
122.0 × 94.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1940
© Dr Quentin Noel Porter

 

 

Brush in hand, there is no mistaking A. D. Colquhoun’s occupation or the studio setting. The young, glamorous model is an essential part of this carefully orchestrated self-portrayal. By also including his painting of the model on the easel, Colquhoun presents himself in the company of not one, but two women whose presence asserts his own dominant masculinity. The artist’s gaze meets the viewer, placing them as the subject of the painter’s attention, creating a complex network of visual relationships between the artist, model and viewer.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at right, Shirley Purdie’s Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe (2018, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Shirley Purdie (Australian / Gija, b. 1947) 'Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe' 2018 (installation view)

 

Shirley Purdie (Australian / Gija, b. 1947)
Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe (installation view)
2018
Natural ochre and pigments on canvas (36 parts)
Each: 45.0 x 45.0cm
Overall: 225.0 x 525.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2019
© Shirley Purdie/Copyright Agency, 2022
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Shirley Purdie (b. 1947) is a senior Gija artist at the Warmun Art Centre who has been painting for more than twenty years. Purdie has lived on her Country, Western Australia’s East Kimberley, all her life. Inspired by senior Warmun artists, including her late mother, Madigan Thomas, she began to paint sites and narratives associated with her Country in the early 1990s. A prominent leader in the Warmun community, her cultural knowledge and artistic skill allow her to pass on Gija stories and language to the younger generations.

In 2018, Purdie was selected to contribute to the National Portrait Gallery’s 20th anniversary exhibition, So Fine: Contemporary Women Artists Make Australian History. Composed of 36 paintings, Purdie’s self-portrait Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngaginbe is an eloquent and stunning visualisation of personal history, identity and connection to Country. ‘It’s good to learn from old people. They keep saying when you paint you can remember that Country, just like to take a photo … When the old people die, young people can read the stories from the paintings. They can learn from the paintings and maybe they want to start painting too.’ Using richly textured ochres collected on her Country, Purdie’s work is a kaleidoscope of traditional Gija stories and Ngarranggarni passed down to her.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Shirley Purdie is senior Gija woman and a prominent leader within the Warmup Community in Western Australia’s East Kimberley. Combining her cultural knowledge with her art, Purdie creates visual depictions of Gija life and culture. Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe, meaning ‘from my women’, is informed by Aboriginal ways of seeing, knowing and understanding oneself within the world. Each of the thirty-six panels shares a story about personal history, identity and Country to produce a non-representational self-portrait of the artist and her ongoing connection to women’s stories. By drawing on the significant women in her life, their relationships and histories, Purdie describes herself through these cultural connections and stories.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing Sam Jink’s Divide (Self portrait) (2011, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973) 'Divide (Self portrait)' 2011 (installation view)

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973) 'Divide (Self portrait)' 2011 (installation view)

 

Sam Jinks (Australian, b. 1973)
Divide (Self portrait) (installation views)
2011
Silicone, resin, horse hair
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2015
© Sam Jinks
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sam Jinks developed a talent for drawing and constructing his ideas alongside his father, a Melbourne cabinetmaker. Jinks worked as an illustrator before turning to sculpture. He worked in film and television special effects before becoming a fabricator for artist Patricia Piccinini. For the last ten years he has sculpted independently, working in silicone, fibreglass, resin and hair – human, animal and synthetic.

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965) 'Portrait group' 1922

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965)
Portrait group
1922
Oil on canvas
152.8 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1995
© Veronica Martin

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965) 'Portrait group' 1922 (installation view detail)

 

Max Martin (Australian, 1889-1965)
Portrait group (installation view detail)
1922
Oil on canvas
152.8 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1995
© Veronica Martin
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961) 'Self portrait with glove' 1939 (installation view)

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961)
Self portrait with glove (installation view)
1939
Oil on canvas board
Frame: 44.4 x 40.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Estate of Herbert Badham
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Herbert Badham was an artist, writer and teacher who specialised in figures, urban life and beach scenes. Having studied for many years at the Julian Ashton School in the 1920s and 1930s, he produced a body of painting that typified the gentle, realist aspect of Sydney modernism of the prewar years. Head of the intermediate art department at East Sydney Tech from 1938 to 1961, he published the populist Study of Australian Art in 1949, and A Gallery of Australian Art in 1954. Badham’s work underwent a minor revival in the late 1980s, with a retrospective show held in Wollongong and Sydney, and three of his urban scenes were selected for the National Gallery’s Federation exhibition of 2001. Arguably the most interesting of several self-portraits of the artist, this painting was featured on the cover of the catalogue of the 1987 retrospective.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961) 'Self portrait with glove' 1939

 

Herbert Badham (Australian, 1899-1961)
Self portrait with glove
1939
Oil on canvas board
Frame: 44.4 x 40.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Estate of Herbert Badham

 

Janet Dawson (Australian, b. 1935) 'Self Portrait' Between 1951 and 1953

 

Janet Dawson (Australian, b. 1935)
Self Portrait
Between 1951 and 1953
oil on cardboard
Frame: 57.0 x 47.5cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2000
© Janet Dawson/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Janet Dawson (b. 1935) is best known for her contribution to abstract art in Australia. Following her family’s relocation from Forbes to Melbourne in the early 1940s, Dawson attended the private art school run by Harold Septimus Power. In 1951, aged sixteen, she enrolled at the National Gallery School and attended night classes with Sir William Dargie. Five years later, Dawson won a National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship and went to London, where she studied at the Slade School and the Central School. Returning to Melbourne in 1961, she held her first solo exhibition the same year and in 1963 set up an art school and workshop. Dawson was one of only three women included in the influential exhibition of Australian abstraction, The Field, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1968. Her work is represented in all major public collections in Australia, and has been the subject of exhibitions at the NGV and the National Gallery of Australia.

Outside of her lyrical abstract work, Dawson always practised portraiture and won the Archibald Prize in 1973 with a portrait of her husband, the late writer, actor and playwright Michael Boddy. Painted during an evening class at the National Gallery School, this self portrait shows Dawson wearing an artist’s work shirt over her elegant day clothes, gazing confidently at the viewer.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Lina Bryans’ The babe is wise (1940, below); at middle, Janet Cumbrae Stewart’s Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill (1920, below); and at right, Evelyn Chapman’s Self portrait (1911, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000) 'The babe is wise' 1940 (installation view)

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000)
The babe is wise (installation view)
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lina Bryans was an important part of the modern movement and a member of literary and artistic circles in Melbourne during the late 1930s and 1940s. Her vibrant paintings are characterised by bold brushwork and the expressive use of colour. In 1937, Bryans began painting portraits of her friends. Her most famous work, The babe is wise, is a portrait of the writer Jean Campbell, who had recently published a novel of the same name.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000) 'The babe is wise' 1940

 

Lina Bryans (Australian born Germany, 1909-2000)
The babe is wise
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962

 

Janet Cumbrae Stewart (Australian, 1883-1960) 'Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill' 1920

 

Janet Cumbrae Stewart (Australian, 1883-1960)
Portrait of Jessie C. A. Traill
1920
Pastel
Image and sheet: 55.5 × 45.4cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Jessie Traill, 1961
© Courtesy of the copyright holder

 

 

Chiefly known for her use of pastel, Janet Cumbrae Stewart devoted the most significant part of her career to producing sensuous studies of the female nude and portraits of women. Her portrait of fellow artist Jessie Traill shows Traill in the dress uniform of a Queen Alexandra Imperial Nurse. Nursing was one of the few options open to women wanting to serve in the First World War. Traill, who was living in France, volunteered and was stationed in Rouen in Northern France for three and a half years. Cumbrae Stewart and Traill were friends, both having grown up in Brighton, Victoria, and attended the National Gallery School alongside one another in the early 1900s.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Self portrait' 1911 (installation view)

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961)
Self portrait (installation view)
1911
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2007
© Estate of Evelyn Chapman
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961) 'Self portrait' 1911

 

Evelyn Chapman (Australian, 1888-1961)
Self portrait
1911
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2007
© Estate of Evelyn Chapman

 

 

Evelyn Chapman, artist, studied with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo in Sydney and travelled overseas to paint in Paris, where she exhibited at the Salon. A few weeks after the end of World War 1 she took up the opportunity to visit the battlefields of France with her father, who was attached to the New Zealand War Graves Commission. Thus, she became the first Australian female artist to depict the devastated battlefields, towns and churches of the western front. Chapman remained overseas with her father, an organist who played in Dieppe, Venice and elsewhere, and married a brilliant organist, George Thalben-Ball, herself. After she married, she gave up painting, but she encouraged her daughter, Pamela, to pursue art. For the rest of her life, Chapman lived in England, only returning to Australia for a visit in 1960. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has her 1911 portrait of Dattilo Rubbo and a number of her paintings of France, Belgium and England. The Australian War Memorial, too, has several of her evocative French scenes.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, William Yang’s Self Portrait #2 (2007, below); and at centre in case, Alan Constable’s earthenware cameras (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Life Lines #3 – Self portrait #2 (1947)' 1947/2008

 

William Yang (Australian, b. 1943)
Self Portrait #2
2007
From the Self Portrait series
Inkjet print
Sheet: 84.0 x 50.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Ms Cora Trevarthen and Professor Andrew Reeves, 2013
© William Yang

 

 

William Yang shares childhood memories in this self-portrait. He recently reflected: ‘… I cal myself Australian, but I claim my Chinese heritage because that’s the way I look. Central to my art practice is my own story, which I tell in performances with projected images and music in theatres. My story is told against a backdrop of the times. This keys into my documentary-style photography. I have done a series of self-portraits of the same stories for exhibition in galleries. So my art and my life have become entwined and they both feed into each other. And I’ve come to terms with the way I look … It’s a great relief to feel comfortable in your own skin’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Alan Constable’s Green large format camera (2013, below); and at right Alan Constable’s Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera) (2013, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Green large format camera)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Green large format camera)
2013
Earthenware
16.5 × 24.0 × 9.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Black Mamiya large format camera)
2013
Earthenware
25.0 × 29.0 × 26.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956) 'Not titled (Box Brownie)' 2013

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled (Box Brownie)
2013
Earthenware
17.0 × 24.5 × 18.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Yvonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

Alan Constable’s lifelong fascination with cameras began when he was just eight years old, as he sculpted the objects picture on cereal boxes. Legally blind, Constable’s sculptural practice sometimes extends to other optical objects, such as binoculars and video recorders. Constable’s method involves holding the camera millimetres from his eyes, as he scans and feels the object, before quickly rendering his impressions in clay. Constable has worked at Arts Project Australia since 1991 and held his first solo show in 2011. His works speak to the processes of seeing and looking, and self-reflexively capture the objects that capture the image.

Display case text from the exhibition

 

Christian Thompson. 'Othering the Explorer, James Cook' 2016

 

Christian Thompson (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1978)
Authoring the explorer, James Cook
2015, printed 2016
From the Museum of Others series 2015-2016
Type C photograph on metallic paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of an anonymous donor through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2017

 

 

‘Today, we are still conditioned by historical tropes such as the bust-style portraits of colonial men who had roles in furthering the position of colonial Britain at the height of the imperial pursuit for claiming new frontiers, at the expense of the Indigenous custodians of countries including Australia. However, as famous as these colonial figures still are, I try to demonstrate that it is never too late to pierce, subvert and re-stage the spectres of history to gain agency from the position of the other. Through the work, I am proposing: let us scrutinise your history, your identities, your flaws.’ ~ Christian Thompson, 2017

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is one of the most comprehensive explorations of portraiture ever mounted in Australia and the first exhibition to bring together the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. The exhibition will be on display in Melbourne from 25 March to 21 August 2022 and Canberra from 1 October 2022 to 29 January 2023.

Revealing the rich artistic synergies and contrasts between the two institutions’ collections, this co-curated exhibition considers portraiture in Australia across time and media, as well as the role of the portraiture genre in the development of a sense of Australian national identity.

Featuring more than two-hundred works by Australian artists including Patricia Piccinini, Atong Atem, Howard Arkley, Vincent Namatjira and Tracey Moffatt, and featuring sitters including Cate Blanchett, Albert Namatjira, Queen Elizabeth II, Eddie Mabo and David Gulpilil, the exhibition explores our inner worlds and outer selves, as well as issues of sociability, intimacy, isolation, celebrity and ordinariness.

The exhibition also questions what actually constitutes portraiture by examining the surprising and sometimes unconventional ways of representing likeness, such as the abstract self-portrait by John Nixon and Boris Cipusev’s typographic portrait of Jeff from The Wiggles. Polixeni Papapetrou’s Magma Man, a photograph which merges sitter and landscape until the two are almost indecipherable, and Shirley Purdie’s multi-panelled evocation of biography and Country further challenge the conventions of the genre and touch upon the intimate connection between artist, sitter and land. Alongside these works, iconic self-portraits will also be displayed by artists including John Brack, Nora Heysen and William Yang.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: “This exhibition marks the first major partnership between the NGV and the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. By combining our respective portraiture collections and curatorial expertise in this area, we have been able to stage the largest thematic portraiture exhibition in the history of either institution. This presentation will no doubt offer audiences an unprecedented insight into the genre and its place in Australian art history.”

Karen Quinlan AM, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: “The NPG is thrilled to work with the NGV on this extensive exploration of Australian portraiture. The exhibition comes at a time when, in the current global COVID environment, stories from home, about home, and the artists and identities who have shaped and continue to shape our nation are more compelling and important than ever. It is a privilege to be able to present our collection in conversation with the NGV’s and to explore the idea of Australian identity and its many layers and facets through the lens of portraiture.”

Presented across five thematic sections, the exhibition raises challenging and provocative questions about who we are and how we view others – historically, today and into the future. The exhibition opens by considering the connection between people and place, reflecting on the relationship between artists, sitters and the environment, as well as the personification of the natural world. Highlight works include a conceptual map depicting self and Country by Wawiriya Burton, Ngayaku Ngura (My Country) 2009, as well as the NGV’s recent acquisition Seven Sisters Song 2021 by Kaylene Whiskey, a painted road sign that is filled with personally significant, autobiographical references to pop culture.

A further section explores the artistic tradition of the self-portrait and portraits of artists, as well as how this convention has been subverted or challenged by contemporary artists working today. Works include Hari Ho’s Dadang Christanto 2005, which depicts the artist buried to the neck in sand, referencing the brutal killings of Indonesians in the failed military coup of September 1965, and Alan Constable’s Not titled (Green large format camera) 2013, personifying the act of photography with a hand modelled, ceramic camera.

Ideas of intimacy and alienation are juxtaposed through images of family and community presented alongside those of vulnerability and isolation. Works include Pat Larter’s Marty 1995, a graphic collage depicting a male sex worker, challenging the ease with which society consumes images of female nudity, and Naomi Hobson’s Warrior without a weapon 2019, a photographic series in which the artist challenges stereotypes about Indigenous men from her home community in Coen, by using flowers as a metaphor for male vulnerability.

The exhibition also explores portraiture’s surprising capacity to reveal the inner worlds and mindsets of both the sitter and the artist, as exemplified by Eric Thake’s satirical vignettes of figures in dream-like settings, and Hoda Afshar’s Remain 2018, a video exploring Australia’s controversial border protection policy and the human rights of those seeking asylum.

The final section of the exhibition interrogates Australian icons, identities and how we construct them. Works featured in this section include Michael Riley’s Maria 1986 and Polly Borland’s HM Queen Elizabeth II 2002, two works displayed side by side, drawing connections between archetypal imagery of royalty, with negative renderings of ‘otherness’ found in historical ethnographic portraiture.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is presented by the NGV and the National Portrait Gallery and will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Fed Square from 25 March to 21 August 2022 and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra from 1 October 2022 to 29 January 2023.

WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture is generously supported by Major Partner, Deakin University.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria International

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre left, Bert Flugelman’s self portrait (1985, below). The legend of the artworks on the wall is below…
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bert Flugelman (Australian born Austria, 1923-2013, Australia from 1938) 'Self portrait' c. 1985

 

Bert Flugelman (Australian born Austria, 1923-2013, Australia from 1938)
Self portrait
c. 1985
Stainless steel
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2009
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Bert Flugelman/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

 

Herbert ‘Bert’ Flugelman, sculptor, painter and lecturer, came to Australia from his native Vienna in 1938, aged fifteen. In the late 1940s he trained at the National Art School; he travelled and studied overseas through the first half of the 1950s. In 1967 he won first prize at the Mildura Sculpture Triennial with a large cast-iron equestrian piece. His subsequent public commissions include the untitled copper and ceramic mosaic fountain at Bruce Hall at the Australian National University; Spheres 1977 (known locally as Bert’s Balls) for the Rundle Street Mall, Adelaide; and the Dobell Memorial 1978 for Martin Place, Sydney. Controversially, Tumbling cubes (Dice) (Untitled) 1978/1979, originally made for Cameron Offices in Belconnen ACT, was some years ago moved to a nearby park, according to the artist a ‘hopelessly inappropriate site’. Cones 1982 dominates the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia, and the Winged figure (Lawrence Hargrave memorial) 1988 towers 6m high at Mt Keira, near Wollongong. Flugelman taught from 1973 to 1983 at the South Australian School of Art, and from 1984 to 1990 at the University of Wollongong, from which he received an honorary doctorate. There was a retrospective exhibition of his five decades’ work at the Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University in 2009.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 - Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971) 'Self portrait in reflection' 1973 (installation view)

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 – Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971)
Self portrait in reflection (installation view)
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 - Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971) 'Self portrait in reflection' 1973

 

Lewis Morley (Hong Kong 125 – Australia 2013, England 1945-1971, Australia from 1971)
Self portrait in reflection
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Lewis Morley Archive LLC

 

 

Lewis Morley OAM (1925-2013), photographer, was born in Hong Kong and went to the United Kingdom with his family at the end of World War 2. He studied commercial art in London and spent time in Paris before taking up photography in 1954, initially working for magazines like Tatler, London Life and She. In 1961, he founded Lewis Morley Studios in Peter Cook’s London club, The Establishment. Here, he built his reputation with photographs of the celebrities that defined the hip spirit of London in the 1960s, among them Cook, Dudley Moore, Charlotte Rampling, Twiggy, Vanessa Redgrave and Jean Shrimpton. In 1963, Morley took one of the world’s most famous photographic portraits – that of Christine Keeler, short-term shared mistress of a British politician and a Soviet diplomat, naked on a Scandinavian chair. By 1971, Morley’s magazine and theatre work in London was petering out, and he emigrated to Australia, where, he said, ‘bingo! there was the sixties all over again’. Shooting increasingly in colour, Morley took many photographs for Dolly, POL, Belle and other publications that now afford an evocative record of changing Australian culture through the 1970s and 1980s. Many of Morley’s portraits from this era were shown in the National Portrait Gallery’s retrospective exhibition Lewis Morley: Myself and Eye in 2003. His work was also the subject of a major exhibitions staged by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1989-1990; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2006.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003) 'Albert Namatjira' 1958 (installation view)

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003)
Albert Namatjira (installation view)
1958
Oil on canvas laid on composition board
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds donated by Marilyn Darling AC and the assistance of Philip Bacon Galleries 2000
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Albert Namatjira was a descendant of the Western Arrant people of the Northern Territory. Inspired by the spectacular landforms and vivid colours around his home at the Hermannsuburg Mission in the 1930s, Namatjira fused Western-influenced style of watercolour with unique expressions of traditional sites and sacred knowledge. Sir William Dargie CBE described Namatjira as having ‘tremendous inner dignity’ and within this portrait, he located Namatjira in his country in the MacDonnell Ranges. Holding one of his own landscapes, the portrait represents the intrinsic connection between the artist’s painting and identity. Namatjira was, and still is, an important presence in Australian art and a leading figure in the development of Aboriginal rights.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003) 'Albert Namatjira' 1958 (installation view detail)

 

William Dargie (Australian, 1912-2003)
Albert Namatjira (installation view detail)
1958
Oil on canvas laid on composition board
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds donated by Marilyn Darling AC and the assistance of Philip Bacon Galleries 2000
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003) 'Sharpies, Melbourne' 1973

 

Rennie Ellis (Australian, 1940-2003)
Sharpies, Melbourne
1973, printed c. 1977-1978
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2006

 

 

‘Rather than capturing the subjects unawares I have encouraged them to pause, and even pose, from the camera. In this way they have an opportunity to communicate directly with me and to project whatever image they believe suits them best.’ ~ Rennie Ellis

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Hera Roberts' 1936 (installation view)

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hera Roberts (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 cm x 21.4cm
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Hera Roberts' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hera Roberts
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 cm x 21.4cm
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Hera Roberts (life dates unknown) was a painter, illustrator, designer, commercial artist and milliner. During the 1920s and 30s she produced many covers for the Home magazine, and arranged photo spreads for the magazine promoting fashionable interiors and furniture. She designed a complete room for the Burdekin House exhibition of 1929, including furniture, and also designed furniture for her companion Sydney Ure Smith. Roberts was regarded as an authoritative commentator on matters of style. She was the student and cousin of the artist Thea Proctor, who was also part of the network of ‘lady artists’ who were able to make their careers in interior decorating and taste arbitration. Co-owner of a millinery shop in Pitt Street called ‘June’, Roberts was also one of the finest female fencers in the Southern Hemisphere, operating out of the Sydney Swords Club.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 23/06/2022

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, 1967-2017) 'Self-portrait, 'I am the Dingo Spirit'' 2015 (installation view)

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, 1967-2017)
Self-portrait, ‘I am the Dingo Spirit’ (installation view)
2015
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Trevor Turbo Brown, or ‘Turbo’ as he was known, was born in Mildura and grew up on Latje Latje Country. In 1981, Turbo moved to Melbourne were he became a celebrity in the Koori community. He trained as a boxer at the Fitzroy Stars Gym from 1986 to 1991 and would do breakdance street performances throughout Melbourne during the 1980s and 1990s. It was here that he got his nickname. Turbo was a regular character on the streets of Brunswick before he passed away in 2017. In this self-portrait Turbo impinges himself as a dingo, wild and free in the night.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, b. 1967) Self-portrait, 'I am the Dingo Spirit' 2015

 

Trevor Turbo Brown (Australian / Latje Latje, b. 1967)
Self-portrait, ‘I am the Dingo Spirit’
2015
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
122.3 x 102.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Vince Sinni in memory of Trevor Turbo Brown through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2018
© the artist’s estate

 

John Brack. 'Self-portrait' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Self-portrait
1955
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery Women’s Association, 2000

 

 

John Brack created images that explore the social rituals and realities of everyday living. Rendered in a subtle but complex colour scheme, with its subject stripped of vanity and dressed in early-morning attire, Self-portrait is a piercing study of a man engaged in the intimacy of shaving. Although images of women at their toilette have been recently depicted by both male and female Australian artists, it is unusual for men to be shown or to show themselves in this context.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with second from left, Michael Cook’s Tunnel No. 2 (2014, below); at third from left, Ron Mueck’s Two Women (2005, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968) 'Tunnel No. 2' 2014 (installation view)

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968)
Tunnel No. 2 (installation view)
2014
From the series Majority Rule
Inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Ybonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘In Majority Rule I created staged scenarios that question Australian history and the dominance of those in power. The series features the same anonymous Indigenous Man, multiplied over and over in each image. Australia’s Indigenous population comprises around three or four percent of our total population. My images seek to defy this reality and ask the viewer to speculate about an Australia where Aboriginal people constitute the majority of the country’s population; they paint a picture of a societal structure reversed … The works also serve as reminders fo the lack of Indigenous representation within Parliament, the judicial system and the business world.’ ~ Michael Cook, 2017

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968) 'Tunnel No. 2' 2014

 

Michael Cook (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1968)
Tunnel No. 2
2014
From the series Majority Rule
Inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Ybonne Pettengell Bequest, 2014
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Ron Mueck. 'Two woman' 2005

 

Ron Mueck (Australian born England, b. 1958)
Two women
2005
Polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, polyurethane, aluminium, wire, steel, cotton, nylon, synthetic hair, plastic, metal
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007

 

Ron Mueck. 'Two woman' 2005 (detail)

 

Ron Mueck (Australian born England, b. 1958)
Two women (detail)
2005
Polyester resin, fibreglass, silicone, polyurethane, aluminium, wire, steel, cotton, nylon, synthetic hair, plastic, metal
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality (2018, below); at second right, William Frater’s Reclining nude (c. 1933, below); and at right, Pat Larter’s Marty (1995, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Pierre Mukeba (Australian born Democratic Republic of the Congo, b. 1995, Australia from 2006) 'Impartiality' 2018

 

Pierre Mukeba (Australian born Democratic Republic of the Congo, b. 1995, Australia from 2006)
Impartiality
2018
Fibre-tipped pen and printed fabric on cotton
245.0 × 270.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Anne Ross, 2018
© Pierre Mukeba, courtesy of GAGPROJECTS

 

 

Pierre Mukeba was a child when he fled with his family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Zambia, where they lived in a refugee camp before joining family in Zimbabwe. Following the Mugabe regime’s arrest order for non-nationals, the family applied for asylum through the Australian Embassy and relocated to Adelaide in 2006. In this work, Mukeba uses patterned Dutch wax print fabrics commonly perceived as being ‘African’, while in reality, they were appropriated from traditional Javanese bark by Dutch colonisers in the nineteenth century, mass produced in Europe and exported to Africa. This painting is part of a group of works by Mukeba, in which he draws on sociocultural standards of beauty and representations of his community.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913) 'Reclining nude' c. 1933 (installation view)

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913)
Reclining nude (installation view)
c. 1933
Oil on canvas on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1950
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913) 'Reclining nude' c. 1933 (installation view detail)

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974, Australia from 1913)
Reclining nude (installation view detail)
c. 1933
Oil on canvas on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1950
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974) 'The artist's wife' 1915

 

William Frater (Australian born Scotland, 1890-1974)
The artist’s wife
1915
Oil on canvas on plywood
47.0 x 32.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Joseph Brown Collection
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004

 

Pat Larter (Australian born England, 1936-1996, Australia from 1962) 'Marty' 1995 (installation view)

 

Pat Larter (Australian born England, 1936-1996, Australia from 1962)
Marty (installation view)
1995
Coloured inks, synthetic polymer paint, plastic, glitter and self-adhesive plastic collage on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1997
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Throughout her career, Pat Larter produced performance art, photography and multimedia images that focus on the consumption of the naked body throughout the media. Often adapting pornographic images to encourage debate on art, the body and censorship, Larter actively looked to challenge society’s ideas of the nude by producing striking, and sometimes humorous images. Marty is part of a series for which Larter visited Sydney’s brothels to photograph male sex workers. By showing the model in a full frontal, active position, Larter reflects on the double standards of how society consumes nudity in art. Images of naked women are viewed with ease, while depictions of naked men cause shock and often outrage.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, John Longstaff’s The young mother (1891, below); at centre Patricia Piccinini’s Nest (2006); at second right, a group of four photographs one by each of Jack Cato, Virginie Grange, Olive Cotton and Athol Shmith (see below); and at right Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality (2018, above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920) 'The young mother' 1891 (installation view)

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920)
The young mother (installation view)
1891
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women’s Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox, Ken and Jill Harrison and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A gifted student, John Longstaff was awarded the National Gallery School’s inaugural travelling scholarship in 1887. Longstaff and Rosa Louisa (Topsy) Crocker married two months before departing to London in September 1887. An intimate depiction of motherhood, The young mother shows Topsy tenderly waving a palm fan over the outstretched arms of her son, Ralph, who was born in 1890. Topsy appears pale and slim after a long winter spent in their one-room apartment, divided by a curtain into sleeping and eating quarters. The subject of the mother and child has its origins in the depiction of the biblical Madonna and Child, and continued to be a popular subject for nineteenth-century artists recoding their personal and secular experiences with tenderness and conviction.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920) 'The young mother' 1891 (installation view detail)

 

John Longstaff (Australian, 1861-1941, France and England 1887-1895, England 1901-1920)
The young mother (installation view detail)
1891
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the NGV Women’s Association, Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, Paula Fox, Ken and Jill Harrison and donors to the John Longstaff Appeal, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965) 'Nest' 2006 (installation view)

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Nest (installation view)
2006
Enamel paint on fibreglass, leather, plastic, metal, rubber, mirror, transparent synthetic polymer resin, glass
(a-b) 104.2 × 197.0 × 186.4cm (variable) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2006
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965) 'Nest' 2006

 

Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
Nest
2006
Enamel paint on fibreglass, leather, plastic, metal, rubber, mirror, transparent synthetic polymer resin, glass
(a-b) 104.2 × 197.0 × 186.4cm (variable) (installation)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2006
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at top left, Jack Cato’s No title (Nude model) (c. 1928-1932, below); at top right, Virginie Grange’s Untitled (1990, below); at bottom left, Olive Cotton’s The photographer’s shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain) (c. 1935, below); and at bottom right, Athol Shmith’s No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag) (
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jack Cato (Australian, 1889-1971) 'No title (Nude model)' c. 1928-1932

 

Jack Cato (Australian, 1889-1971)
No title (Nude model)
c. 1928-1932
Gelatin silver photograph
Image and sheet: 44.1 × 33.7cm
Support: 49.1 × 37.8cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by John Cato, Fellow, 2005

 

Virginie Grange (French; Australian, 1969-1990) 'Untitled' 1990

 

Virginie Grange (French; Australian, 1969-1990)
Untitled
1990
Type C photograph
35.0 × 35.1cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist’s family, 1991
© Estate of the artist

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The photographer's shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)' c. 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
The photographer’s shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
16.6 cm x 15.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2010

 

 

Olive Cotton (1911-2003) and Max Dupain OBE (1911-1992) were pioneering modernist photographers. Cotton’s lifelong obsession with photography began at age eleven with the gift of a Kodak Box Brownie. She was a childhood friend of Dupain’s and in 1934 she joined his fledgling photographic studio, where she made her best-known work, Teacup Ballet, in about 1935. Throughout the 1930s, Dupain established his reputation with portraiture and advertising work and gained exposure in the lifestyle magazine The Home. Between 1939 and 1941, Dupain and Cotton were married and she photographed him often; her Max After Surfing is frequently cited as one of the most sensuous Australian portrait photographs. While Dupain was on service during World War II Cotton ran his studio, one of very few professional women photographers in Australia. Cotton remarried in 1944 and moved to her husband’s property near Cowra, New South Wales. Although busy with a farm, a family, and a teaching position at the local high school, Cotton continued to take photographs and opened a studio in Cowra in 1964. In the 1950s, Dupain turned increasingly to architectural photography, collaborating with architects and recording projects such as the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Dupain continued to operate his studio on Sydney’s Lower North Shore until he died at the age of 81. Cotton was in her seventies when her work again became the subject of attention. In 1983, she was awarded a Visual Arts Board grant to reprint negatives that she had taken over a period of forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 drew critical acclaim and has since assured her reputation.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 24/06/2022

 

Athol Shmith (Australian, 1914-1990) 'No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag)' 1970s

 

Athol Shmith (Australian, 1914-1990)
No title (Nude portrait of woman on beanbag)
1970s
Gelatin silver photograph
28.0 × 22.4cm
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by the Shmith Family, Governor, 1995
© Estate of Athol Shmith

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with at second left, Danila Vassielieff’s Young girl (Shirley) (1937, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Hollick (Australian, 1883-1977) 'Janet Armstrong, Woodbury Estate, Deniliquin, New South Wales' c. 1939

 

Ruth Hollick (Australian, 1883-1977)
Janet Armstrong, Woodbury Estate, Deniliquin, New South Wales
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph
21.6 × 28.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lucy Crosbie Morrison, 1992

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937 (installation view)

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935)
Young girl (Shirley) (installation view)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937

 

Danila Vassilieff (Australian born Russia, 1897-1958, Australia 1923-1929, Central and South America, Europe, England, 1929-1935, Australia from 1935)
Young girl (Shirley)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984) 'Boys drawing' c. 1926-1927 (installation view)

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984)
Boys drawing (installation view)
c. 1926-1927
Oil on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Marjorie Webster Memorial, Governor, 1983
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984) 'Boys drawing' c. 1926-1927

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984)
Boys drawing
c. 1926-1927
Oil on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Marjorie Webster Memorial, Governor, 1983
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith

 

 

The 1920s saw the advancement of modernism in Australia, due in large part to the dedication of women artists such as Grace Cossington Smith to work in modern styles. Celebrated for her iconic urban images and luminous interiors, Cossington Smith first studied with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo in Sydney, and between 912 and 1914, she toured Germany and England with her family. Following her return to Rubbo’s school, Cossington Smith starting producing work in a cutting-edge Post-Impressionistic style. For several years Cossington Smith worked as a part-time teacher at Turramurra College, a day and boarding school for boys. During this period she developed a painting technique based on the idea that vibrations emanating from colour expressed a spiritual condition as well as optical movement.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856 (installation view)

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware (installation view)
1856
Oil on canvas
63.7 × 76.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-86, Australia 1834-57, 1884-86) 'Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware' 1856

 

Robert Dowling (England 1827-1886, Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886)
Masters George, William and Miss Harriet Ware with the Aborigine Jamie Ware
1856
Oil on canvas
63.7 × 76.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Eleanor M. Borrow Bequest, 2007

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne with at left, E. Phillips Fox’s Dolly, daughter of Hammond Clegg Esq. (1896, below); at second left, Nora Heysen’s Self portrait (1934, below); and at third right, Florence Fuller’s Paper Boy (1888, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003, lived in England and Italy 1934-1937) 'Self portrait' 1934

 

Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003, lived in England and Italy 1934-1937)
Self portrait
1934
Oil on canvas
43.1 x 36.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 1999
© Lou Klepac

 

Florence Fuller (Australian born South Africa, 1867-1946, Australia from 1868) '(Paper boy)' 1888 (installation view)

 

Florence Fuller (Australian born South Africa, 1867-1946, Australia from 1868)
(Paper boy) (installation view)
1888
Oil on canvas
61.2 × 45.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Paper boys were prominent part of street life in nineteenth-century Melbourne. Mostly from disadvantaged circumstances, boys as young as eight would work long hours selling newspapers on the city’s streets, many supporting single mothers or siblings, or working to survive independently. The boys were exposed to crime and exploitation, and were seen as hardened and cheeky, yet Florence Fuller’s portrait is sensitive and nuanced. Her work is often focused on those living in poverty, which provides insight into Melbourne’s social diversity. Fuller worked as a professional artist throughout her life – encouraged by her parents and her uncle, artist Robert Dowling – and exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy, London.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950) 'Italian girl's head' 1913 (installation view)

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950)
Italian girl’s head (installation view)
1913
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 42.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1936
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950) 'Italian girl's head' 1913

 

Josephine Muntz Adams (Australian, 1862-1950)
Italian girl’s head
1913
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 42.9cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1936

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing the work of Simon Obarzanek from his series 80 Faces (2002, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001) 'Untitled (80 faces) #78' 2002

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001)
Untitled (80 faces) #78
2002
Gelatin silver photograph
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013
© Simon Obarzanek

 

 

The black and white photographs from Simon Obarzanek’s 80 Faces series show frontal portraits of teenagers, captured from the shoulders up with a consistent, neutral backdrop. The sitters are all aged between fourteen and seventeen, the majority from Victoria’s state schools. When capturing their image, the artist only spends five minutes with each sitter, and discusses nothing about their life. In this body of work, Obarzanek explores the idea that the identity or appearance of an individual sitter reveals something new to the audience when viewed as part of a series.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001) 'Untitled (80 faces) #59' 2002

 

Simon Obarzanek (Australian born Israel, b. 1968, United States 1995-2001)
Untitled (80 faces) #59
2002
Gelatin silver photograph
Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013
© Simon Obarzanek

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Maria Brownrigg’s An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens (1857, below); and at second left, Samuel Metford’s MacKenzie family silhouette (1846, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown - c. 1852, Australia from 1852) 'An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens' 1857 (installation view)

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown – c. 1852, Australia from 1852)
An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens (installation view)
1857
Watercolour and collage on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown - c. 1852, Australia from 1852) 'An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens' 1857

 

Maria Brownrigg (Australian born Ireland 1812-1880, South Africa date unknown – c. 1852, Australia from 1852)
An evening at Yarra Cottage, Port Stephens
1857
Watercolour and collage on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017

 

 

Maria Caroline Brownrigg came to New South Wales in 1852, when her husband was appointed superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company’s operations in the Hunter River district. The family lived at Stroud and subsequently at Port Stephens, where Brownrigg made this portrait of her six children. It is the only known example of Brownrigg’s work. Though ‘amateur’, it is valuable to decorative arts and social historians, for its detailed documentation of an appropriately conducted mid nineteenth-century drawing room, and for what it reveals about Victorian gender ideals and aspirations to gentility.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Samuel Metford (England 1810-1890, lived in United States 1834-1844) 'MacKenzie family silhouette' 1846

 

Samuel Metford (England 1810-1890, lived in United States 1834-1844)
MacKenzie family silhouette
1846
Brush and ink, pen and ink, stencil cutout with watercolour highlights on paper
43.2 x 64.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the Estate of Nancy Wiseman

 

 

Samuel Metford was born in Glastonbury, into a Quaker family. In England he came to specialise in full-length silhouette likenesses, cut from black paper and embellished with gold and white paint. According to the standard text on British silhouettes, Metford made ‘some very fine family groups – Father and Mother surrounded by their children and pets, with hand-painted backgrounds of imposing rooms whose tall windows looked out on wide landscapes, or a seascape with a tall-funnelled steamship in a prominent position.’ Metford moved to America in about 1834, and spent some ten years there, working mostly in Connecticut but also in New York and South Carolina. He returned to England in the early 1840s, and lived there for the rest of his life, although he revisited America in 1869 and 1867. He died at Weston-Super-Mare.

Samuel Metford (1810-1896), specialised in full-length silhouette likenesses on hand-painted watercolour backgrounds, sometimes embellished with gold and white paint or featuring gentrified interiors. Born in Glastonbury, Somerset, he received tuition from French silhouette artist Augustin Edouart, before going to America and working for the next ten years in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. His return to England in the mid-1840s coincided with the downturn in demand for profile portraits occasioned by photography which, by the 1860s, had rendered art forms such as the silhouette passé. This silhouette depicts the family of Francis MacKenzie (1806-1851, seated far right) at Adlington Hall in Standish, Lancashire. Following Francis MacKenzie’s death, his widow, Maria (1810-1874, third from left) emigrated to Australia with her five children. Maria’s eldest son, John (1833-1917, seated, left, at the table), was Examiner of Coalfields in the Illawarra from 1863 and 1865, later becoming Examiner of Coalfields for NSW. Her sons Walter (1835-1886, seated, right, at the table) and Kenneth (d. 1903) are thought to have become clergymen. Her youngest daughter, Maria (1842-1917, second from left), married a doctor, Alexander Morson, in 1875. Another daughter, Caroline (1837-1922, fourth from left), remained unmarried and died at the family property near Dapto in 1922. Other sitters shown in the silhouette are Maria’s mother, Mrs Thomas Edwards (far left); and her youngest child, William, who died, aged six, in 1851. Maria MacKenzie died at Wallerawang in New South Wales in 1874. The silhouette was bequeathed to the Gallery by her great-grandaughter in 2007.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website updated 2018 [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of Anna Josepha King and Fanny Jane Marlay

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing by unknown artists – at left, Anna Josepha King (c. 1826-1832, below); and at right, Fanny Jane Marlay (c. 1841, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown artist. 'Anna Josepha King' c. 1826-1832

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Anna Josepha King
c. 1826-1832
watercolour and gouache on ivory
Frame: 9.7 cm x 8.3cm
Sheet: 8.5 cm x 6.5cm
Image: 7.0 cm x 5.7cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2018

 

 

Before the early 1840s, when photography began to take hold, portrait miniatures were a favoured means by which people might secure tangible and enduring mementos of their loved ones. Typically executed in watercolour on panels of ivory and contained in petite frames or mounted in pendants, brooches, rings, and lockets, miniatures were designed to be clutched, kissed, carried close to the heart or displayed on a bedside table. Many early Australian colonists brought British-made miniatures with them, but increasing numbers of free settlers from the 1820s onwards soon created demand for miniatures by local, readily-available artists.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Unknown artist. 'Fanny Jane Marlay' c. 1841

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Fanny Jane Marlay
c. 1841
watercolour on ivory
Frame: 7.5 cm x 6.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2013

 

 

Fanny Jane Marlay (1819-1848) came to Sydney with her free-settler family around 1825. In 1838, she met John Lort Stokes (1812-1885), an explorer, naval officer and surveyor appointed to HMS Beagle, which was then engaged in a surveying voyage of the Australian coast. In the course of it, Stokes charted much of what is now the coast of the Northern Territory; gave Darwin its name (after his former shipmate, Charles Darwin); and surveyed the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Arafura Sea, the Torres Strait, the Western Australian coast, and Bass Strait. He and Fanny married in Sydney in January 1841. Later the same year, Stoke succeeded to the command of the Beagle. Their daughter was born in 1842. Fanny returned with Stokes to England in 1843 and died while en route to Sydney again in 1848. Back in England from 1851, Stokes was eventually promoted to admiral. He died at his home, Scotchwell, in Pembrokeshire, in June 1885, survived by his second wife, Louisa, whom he’d married in 1856, and by his daughter from his marriage to Fanny.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ada Whiting (Australian, 1859-1953) 'The Earl of Linlithgow' 1901

 

Ada Whiting (Australian, 1859-1953)
The Earl of Linlithgow
1901
Watercolour on ivory
6.6 × 5.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Violet Whiting, 1989

 

Ludwig Becker (Australian born Germany, 1808-1861) 'Caroline Davidson' 1854 (installation view)

 

Ludwig Becker (Australian born Germany, 1808-1861)
Caroline Davidson (installation view)
1854
Watercolour on fictile ivory
Image: 5.7 × 4.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown artist (Australia) 'Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, photographed in Braidwood gaol' 1867

 

Unknown artist (Australia)
Thomas and John Clarke, bushrangers, photographed in Braidwood gaol
1867
Albumen silver photograph laid down on a section cut from a nineteenth-century album page
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2019

 

 

John (c. 1846-1867) (left) and Thomas Clarke (c. 1840-1867), bushrangers, grew up near Braidwood and from a young age were schooled in nefarious activities including horse-theft. John was 17 when he first went to prison and Thomas was purported to have ridden with the infamous Ben Hall. In October 1865, Thomas escaped from gaol while awaiting trial for armed robbery; thereafter, aided by various mates, he embarked on a string of depredations around Braidwood, Araluen and further south. In April 1866, at Nerrigundah, the gang engaged in a hold-up that left a policeman dead. Thomas was outlawed in May, by which time John had joined him. Reports described them as ‘well-mounted, and armed to the teeth’. In September 1866 colonial secretary Henry Parkes sent four special constables to Braidwood ‘for the express purpose of hunting down the desperate marauders’. In January 1867, the four were murdered in an ambush at Jinden. The Clarkes were blamed immediately and the authorities offered rewards of £1000 each, alive or dead. Aided by an effective bush telegraph system, the brothers evaded capture until April 1867, when they were tracked to a hideout near Araluen, apprehended, and taken to Braidwood Gaol. There, an as yet unidentified photographer took portraits that were sold by a Goulburn bookseller for two shillings and sixpence each. The brothers were later tried in Sydney before Sir Alfred Stephen, who in sentencing them to death noted the more than 60 offences, excluding murders, of which they were suspected.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing a selction of cartes de visite: at top left, Freeman Brothers Studio, Sydney (Australia 1854-1900) Maria Windeyer (c. 1865-1868); at second left top, Batchelder & O’Neill (Australia active 1857-1863) Frances Perry (c. 1863); at second right top, Townsend Duryea (Australian born America, 1823-1888) Sarah and Ann Jacob c. 1866; at top right, Batchelder & O’Neill (Australia active 1857-1863) Lady Barkly (1863); at bottom left, James E. Bray (Australia 1832-1891) Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist (c. 1870); at centre bottom, Stephen Edward Nixon (England 1842 – Australia 1910) Catholic clergymen from the Diocese of Adelaide (c. 1862); and at bottom right, Archibald McDonald (Canada c. 1831 – Australia 1873, Australia from c. 1847) Chang the Chinese Giant with his wife Kin Foo and manager Edward Parlett (c. 1871)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

James E. Bray (Australia, 1832-1891) 'Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist' c. 1870

 

James E. Bray (Australia, 1832-1891)
Madame Sibly, Phrenologist and Mesmerist
c. 1870
albumen silver carte de visite photograph
Mount: 10.1 cm x 6.2cm
Image: 9.4 cm x 5.5cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2017

 

 

Marie Sibly (c. 1830-1894), mesmerist and phrenologist, performed in towns throughout Australia for nearly twenty years. Purportedly French-born, she arrived in Sydney around 1867 and worked as a clairvoyant, making her first stage appearances in 1868. By 1871 she was in Melbourne, ‘manipulating heads’ for packed houses at Weston’s Opera House on Bourke Street before embarking on a tour of Victoria. Through the 1870s she toured New South Wales and Queensland, her shows incorporating séances, phrenological readings and hypnotisms whereby audiences members were induced to fight, dance, sing or behave absurdly. A report of one performance described how she convinced two men to fetch a leg of lamb from the butcher; she then made them think they were dogs and they ate it. Her later repertoire included ‘baby exhibitions’ in which prizes were awarded to the specimens with the best mental and physical capacity. She took up land at Parkes in 1877 but continued touring regardless. By the mid-1880s she was in New South Wales again, performing with her daughter, ‘Zel the Magnetic Lady’, and advertising her range of remedies for conditions such as gout, rheumatism and neuralgia. She was known by various names throughout her career although it is unclear how many husbands she had. Having ‘retired from the platform’ she ran a store at Drake, near Tenterfield, where she died in April 1894.

James E Bray ran a business called the ‘Prince of Wales Photographic Gallery’ on George Street, Sydney, which was sold in late 1865. He then went to Victoria, and by early 1868 was reported as ‘having an extensive gallery built at his place of business, Camp Street, Beechworth’. There, he was enabled to ‘execute Every Variety of Photographic Portraiture’, including ‘Cartes de Viste, Tinted or Fully Colored in Water Colors’. He appears to have stocked portraits of international celebrities (such as the conman Arthur Orton, aka The Tichborne Claimant) in addition to taking likenesses for local citizens. Notably, he was among the photographers who documented the Kelly gang and their off-shoots: such as the 22 men of Irish descent who were banged up in Beechworth Gaol for four months without charge in 1879 on the off-chance they might be Kelly sympathisers. Another of Bray’s cartes shows constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, whose attempt to arrest Dan Kelly had initiated the gang’s formation in the first place. Marie Sibly performed in the Beechworth area on several occasions during Bray’s time there. Her reading of certain gentlemen’s heads in Eldorado in August 1871 was judged so accurate that it was assumed she’d ‘received some private information about the parties’; and at a séance in Wangaratta that year, ‘a young man, while under mesmeric influence’ had ‘rudely seized’ the wife of another chap, who struck said young man with a stick. In winter 1879 Sibly was in Beechworth, Chiltern, Corowa, Bright and other towns, variously causing offence, sensation or consternation, it seems, wherever she went – and thus becoming a ‘sure card’ for photographers.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964) 'Lina' 1958 (installation view)

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964)
Lina (installation view)
1958
Earthenware
34.4 x 14.9 x 21.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lina Bryans, 1969
© Centre for Adult Education & Box Hill Institute
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964) 'Lina' 1958

 

Ola Cohn (Australian, 1892-1964)
Lina
1958
Earthenware
34.4 x 14.9 x 21.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Lina Bryans, 1969
© Centre for Adult Education & Box Hill Institute

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960) 'Dr John Yu' 2004 (installation view)

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960)
Dr John Yu (installation view)
2004
Glazed ceramic
42.0 x 42.0 depth 31.0cm
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2004
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ah Xian came to Australia from Beijing in 1989, having already gained some recognition and experience as an artist here. His application for permanent residency took many years to process, and he worked for a long time as a house painter. He began casting porcelain busts and painting them with traditional Chinese designs in 1997; an artist-in-residency followed, he sold a bust to Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, and he held his first solo show in Melbourne in 2000. The following year, he won the National Gallery of Australia’s inaugural National Sculpture Prize with his life-size painted cloisonne enamel figure Human human: “Human Human : Lotus Cloisonne Figure 1 (2000-2001)”.

Dr John Yu (b. 1934), retired paediatrician and hospital administrator, was born in Nanking, China and moved to Australia with his parents when he was three years old. Educated in Sydney, from 1961 he worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (which became the New Children’s Hospital, Westmead), becoming Head of Medicine and serving as its Chief Executive for 19 years before retiring in 1997. For many years he chaired and served on diverse bodies related to children’s health, education, medicine and the arts. From 2004 he was Chair of VisAsia, promoting appreciation of Asian visual arts and culture. He has published a number of books and many papers on paediatrics, hospital management and the decorative arts. Accepting his Australian of the Year Award in 1996, Yu said, ‘I am proud of my Chinese heritage but even prouder to be an Australian’.

In his celadon bust, Ah Xian depicts Yu life-size with his eyes closed while four colourful miniature children clamber over him. In Chinese tradition, children indicate great prosperity and happiness. As Yu noted: ‘A lot of Chinese sculptures have young children climbing all over the subject. I was really pleased because it related to and reflected on my life work as a paediatrician.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website updated 2018 [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Ah Xian celebrates a once-threatened Chinese artisanal tradition of porcelain-ming and decoration. His portraits are a statement of creative freedom and his Chinese-Australian identity, which he shares with his sitter. The mould for this bust was cast in plaster from life – ‘a funny spooky feeling’ according to the subject, who was 1996 Australian of the Year, Dr John Yu. Yu observed of his portrait, ‘people might assume that the first thing that remains me of my heritage is my facial appearance. But it’s not. It’s actually the children … A lot of Chinese sculptures have young children climbing all over the subject. I was really pleased because it related to and reflected on my life work as a paediatrician’.

Wall text rom the exhibition

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960) 'Dr John Yu' 2004

 

Ah Xian (Australian born China, b. 1960)
Dr John Yu
2004
Glazed ceramic
42.0 x 42.0 depth 31.0cm
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2004
© Ah Xian

 

Ricardo Idagi (Australian / Meriam Mir, b. 1957) False Evidence Appearing Real 2012 (installation view)

 

Ricardo Idagi (Australian / Meriam Mir, b. 1957)
False Evidence Appearing Real (installation view)
2012
Earthenware, under glaze, wood, steel, plastic and glassMeasurements
60.0 × 37.0 × 27.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2013
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brook Andrew. 'I Split Your Gaze' 1997

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
I Split Your Gaze
1997, printed 2005
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2005

 

 

‘I’ve cut the image in half and then reversed it so you can’t actually look at the person straight on. And I suppose that’s what racism is about. It’s about cutting racism down the centre. It’s about cutting differences down the centre. Neither part of the portrait in I split your gaze is whole and in being simultaneously halved and doubled the viewer is forced to stare blankly through the image, rather than making eye contact with the subject. Identity becomes mutable through repetition and we observe the man without really looking at him. The work operates as a metaphor for Australia as a society divided on issues concerning race relations.’ ~ Brook Andrew, 2005

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Mike Parr (Australian, b. 1945) John Loane (printer) (Australian, b. 1950) '12 untitled self portraits (set 3)' 1990 (installation view)

 

Mike Parr (Australian, b. 1945)
John Loane (printer) (Australian, b. 1950)
12 untitled self portraits (set 3) (installation view)
1990
Drypoint on 12 sheets of paper, unique state prints on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Sara Kelly 2010. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the early 1980s Mike Parr embarked no his ‘Self Portrait Project’, exploring representation of the psychological self. An artist who works across live performance, photography, works on paper, sculpture and installation, Parr said: ‘I am constantly finding ways to perform the alienation of likeness’. In this work, Parr’s self-image simultaneously coalesces and violently disintegrates across the drypoint plates. The work’s burrs – jagged edges where the needle has ripped through the metal – record the violence of the printing process. The butts hold more ink, creating the deep black lines and a ferocious visualisation of internal turmoil and chaos.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre, Peter Booth’s Painting (1977, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Peter Booth (Australian, b. 1940) 'Painting' 1977

 

Peter Booth (Australian, b. 1940)
Painting
1977
Oil on canvas
182.5 × 304.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist in memory of Les Hawkins, 1978
© Peter Booth/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Selina Ou’s Anita ticket seller (2002m below); and at right, Peter Booth’s Painting (1977, above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Selina Ou (Australian born Malaysia, b. 1977) 'Anita ticket seller' 2002, printed 2005

 

Selina Ou (Australian born Malaysia, b. 1977)
Anita ticket seller
2002, printed 2005
From the Enclosure series 2002
type C photograph
Image: 100.6 × 99.3cm irreg.
Sheet: 126.6 × 119.3cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Selina Ou, represented by Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Petrina Hicks‘ Lauren (2003, below); at third right, Christian Waller‘s Destiny (1916, below); at second right, Charles Dennington‘s Adut Akech (2018, below); and at right, Tony Kearney‘s Gill Hicks (2016, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972) 'Lauren' 2003

 

Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Lauren
2003
From the Lauren series 2003
Lightjet photograph
152.7 x 127.0cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2006
© Petrina Hicks. Courtesy of Michael Reid, Sydney; and This Is No Fantasy, Melbourne

 

 

In this series, Petrina Hicks draws on the tension between perfection and imperfection, the ideal and the real. The model, Lauren, has a look of serenity and otherworldliness – her pale skin, white hair and angelic pose are suggestive of a sculptural marble bust. However, what appears to be a picture of absolute perfection, is a skilfully manipulated image using complex studio lighting and digital technologies, techniques common to glamour and celebrity portraiture that subtly manipulate and remove physical imperfections. The result is a face that appears both fundamentally ‘real’ yet with a flawless quality, resulting in an uncanny and eerie element to the work.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Destiny' 1916

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Destiny
1916
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Ouida Marston, 2011

 

 

Destiny, personified by a female figure, blows gently into a large bowl of water in which can be seen hundreds of tiny need figures floating within fragile bubbles. An allegory of unpredictable foreign, Destiny would have had a particular relevance in the early years of the First World War, a time when Australians were becoming aware of the scale of loss of life the war would bring. Painted in 1916 soon after the artist’s marriage to Napier Waller in late 1915, and in the same years that Waller left for active service in France, Destiny may also have had more personal associations for the artist.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982) 'Adut Akech' 2018, printed 2020 (installation view)

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982)
Adut Akech (installation view)
2018, printed 2020
Inkjet print on paper
Image: 94.9 x 71.3cm
Sheet: 111.2 x 80cm
Gift of the artist 2020
© Charles Dennington
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982) 'Adut Akech' 2018, printed 2020

 

Charles Dennington (Australian, b. 1982)
Adut Akech
2018, printed 2020
Inkjet print on paper
Image: 94.9x 71.3cm
Sheet: 111.2 x 80cm
Gift of the artist 2020
© Charles Dennington

 

 

Adut Akech Bior (b. 1999), supermodel, was born in South Sudan and spent the first several years of her life in the UN’s Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya, after her family fled from civil war. They came to Australia in 2008 and settled in Adelaide. Her break-out modelling assignment came at the age of sixteen, when she walked the runway for Yves Saint Laurent at Paris Fashion Week 2016. In 2017, she became only the second woman of colour to model bridal gowns for Chanel. The following year she featured in the Pirelli calendar, and made 33 appearances at Paris Fashion Week. She was selected by the Duchess of Sussex to feature in British Vogue’s ‘Forces for Change’ edition in 2019, which profiled her activism on humanitarian issues, the rights of asylum seekers, and racial and gender equality.

Charles Dennington’s portrait of Akech was originally taken for the December 2018 issue of Vogue Australia. Dennington discussed plans for the shoot with Akech in advance, giving him a deeper insight into the model’s personal life. This conceptual portrait is one of a group of images that present a funky and upbeat glimpse of the Sudanese-Australian model and her family at home in Adelaide.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Tony Kearney (Australian, b. 1958) 'Gill Hicks' 2016

 

Tony Kearney (Australian, b. 1958)
Gill Hicks
2016
Inkjet print on paper, edition 1/5
Image: 129.3 cm x 101.5cm
Sheet: 138.0 cm x 110.0cm
Purchased 2016
© Tony Kearney

 

 

Gill Hicks AM MBE (b. 1968) is a peace advocate, author, musician and artist. Having grown up in Adelaide, she moved to London in 1991 and worked as publishing director for architectural magazine Blueprint and as a senior curator with the Design Council. On 7 July 2005 Hicks set out for work as usual; within hours, she was the last living casualty rescued from one of three Underground trains attacked by terrorists in the ‘7/7’ London bombings. Having lost 80 per cent of her blood, she was not expected to live. Both her legs were amputated below the knee. As soon as she was able to walk on prosthetics, Hicks visited Beeston, where three of the bombers had come from, and met members of their community, who embraced her. She returned to Adelaide in 2012, where she has continued her work within the arts, launching a studio and online business, M.A.D Minds.

Tony Kearney took this photograph of Hicks in a dark basement in one of Port Adelaide’s old woolstores. Although she was in pain, Kearney notes: ‘We worked together for more than two hours, Gill uncomplaining and cheerful. Sometimes she would need to sit absolutely still for up to sixteen seconds in order to achieve the right exposure.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

James Gleeson (Australian, 1915-2008) 'We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit' 1940 (installation detail)

 

James Gleeson (Australian, 1915-2008)
We inhabit the corrosive littoral of habit (installation detail)
1940
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Anonymous gift, 1941
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

As an artist, writer and curator, James Gleeson was a key exponent of Surrealism in Australia. In 1937 he studied at Sydney Teachers’ College where he encountered the psychoanalytical theory of Sigmund Freud, and developed an interest in the art and literature of European artists associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements. He produced his first Surrealist paintings and poem-drawings soon after, in 1938. Although his style and subject matter continued to transform, Gleeson was committed to Surrealism throughout his sixty-year career and unsettling, dreamlike imagery remained a consistent thread in his work.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972) 'inside another land 13' 2017 (installation view)

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972)
inside another land 13 (installation view)
2017
Synthetic polymer paint on inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2018
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this montage, Del Kathryn Barton creates post-human imagery where the female body is both human and plant. Artists belonging to the early twentieth century art movement Dadaism used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Similarly, Barton uses collage to critique the illusion of an orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible. In part, Barton incorporates imagery of the flower as a widely understood symbol of female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associate significance in their blooming, invoking the creation of new life.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972) 'inside another land 13' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton (Australian, b. 1972)
inside another land 13
2017
Synthetic polymer paint on inkjet print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2018

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970) 'I'm black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase' 2015 (installation view)

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970)
I’m black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase (installation view)
2015
Earthenware
(a-b) 53.1 x 24.8cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2015
© Rona Panangka Rubuntja/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (Australian / Arrente, b. 1970)
I’m black (Nicky Winmar), covered vase
2015
Earthenware
(a-b) 53.1 x 24.8cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2015
© Rona Panangka Rubuntja/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

Rona Panangka Rubuntja joined the Hermannsberg Potters in 1988 and has since established herself as a prominent ceramic artist. This work celebrates legendary AFL star Nicky Winmar, who in 1993 defiantly protested racial taunts by pointing to his skin colour. Winner’s action held widespread attention across Australian media and called to action the ongoing issues of racism in Australian sport. As the artist recalls, ‘I remember when Nicky Winmar lifted his shirt to show that he was black. We will always support Nicky Winmar’.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Adelaide Perry‘s Rachel Roxburgh (1939, below); at second left, Joy Hester‘s Pauline McCarthy (1945, below); at second right, Sybil Craig‘s Peggy (c. 1932, below); and at right, Constance StokesPortrait of a woman in a green dress (1930, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Adelaide Perry‘s Rachel Roxburgh (1939, below); at second left, Joy Hester‘s Pauline McCarthy (1945, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Adelaide Perry (Australian 1891-1973) 'Rachel Roxburgh' 1939

 

Adelaide Perry (Australian 1891-1973)
Rachel Roxburgh
1939
Oil on canvas
Frame: 77.0 cm x 67.0cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2018

 

 

Adelaide Perry held her first solo exhibition in Sydney in 1927, when she was described by Art in Australia magazine as ‘better equipped perhaps than any of the artist of her generation in this country’. The recipient, in 1920, of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, Perry had studied in Paris and at the Royal Academy Schools, and became a founding member of the Contemporary Group after settling in Sydney in 1926. In 1933 she established the Adelaide Perry School of Art. Artist and conservationist Rachel Roxburgh studies there and, like Perry, exhibited with the Society of Artists, the Contemporary Group and at the Macquarie Galleries in the 1930s.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Rachel Roxburgh BEM (1915-1991), artist, educator, conservationist, and heritage campaigner, was born in Sydney and studied at East Sydney Technical College and the Adelaide Perry Art School in the early 1930s. Subsequently, she exhibited with the Contemporary Group, the Society of Artists and at the Macquarie Galleries, and in 1940 organised an exhibition in aid of the Sydney Artists’ and Journalists’ Fund. During World War II she joined a Voluntary Aid Detachment and qualified as a nurse at Sydney Hospital. After the war she spent time in Europe, furthering her studies at the London Central and Hammersmith Art Schools and travelling and sketching in France, Italy, Spain and south-west England. She held her first solo exhibition after returning to Sydney in 1956 and the same year became a member of the newly-formed Potters Society with whom she also exhibited. During the same period she joined the National Trust of Australia (NSW), later becoming a member of its council (1961-1976) and executive (1961-1963). She also served on the Trust’s women’s committee and as a member of the survey committee worked to identify and classify the colonial architectural heritage of New South Wales. A school art teacher for over twenty years, Roxburgh also wrote several articles and books on colonial Australian architecture.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 28/06/2022

 

Joy Hester (Australian, 1920-1960) 'Pauline McCarthy' 1945

 

Joy Hester (Australian, 1920-1960)
Pauline McCarthy
1945
Oil on cardboard
45.7 x 26.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
June Sherwood Bequest, 2021
© Joy Hester Estate/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

 

Joy Hester is known for her distinctive style of portraiture, charged with great emotion and dramatic feeling. Hester’s preferred techniques were drawing and brush and ink, and this portrait of Pauline McCarthy is a rare painting in oils by the artist. From 1938 until 1947 Hester was part of the circle of artists now known as the Angry Penguins and was associated with the group who gathered at the home of Sunday and John Reed. Hester was also a regular visitor to Pauline and Jack McCarthy’s Fitzroy bookshop and private lending library, Kismet. When Hester was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at the age of twenty-seven, McCarthy provided her with both emotional and physical support. Hester died from the illness at forty years of age.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 - Australia 1909, Australia from 1902) 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1902)
Peggy
c. 1932
Oil on canvas
40.4 x 30.4cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1978
© The Estate of Sybil Craig

 

Constance Stokes (Australian, 1906-1991) 'Portrait of a woman in a green dress' 1930 (installation view)

 

Constance Stokes (Australian, 1906-1991)
Portrait of a woman in a green dress (installation view)
1930
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Bequest of Michael Niall, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Polly Borland’s HM Queen Elizabeth II (2002, below); at second right, Atong Atem’s Adut (2015, below); and at right, Treahna Hamm’s Barmah Forest breastplate (2005)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Polly Borland (Australia, b. 1959, England 1989-2011, United States from 2011) 'HM Queen Elizabeth II' 2002

 

Polly Borland (Australia, b. 1959, England 1989-2011, United States from 2011)
HM Queen Elizabeth II
2002
Type C photograph on paper
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2002
© Polly Borland. Reproduced courtesy of Polly Borland and Anna Schwartz Gallery

 

Atong Atem (South Sudanese born Ethiopia, b. 1994) 'Adut' 2015, printed 2019

 

Atong Atem (South Sudanese born Ethiopia, b. 1994)
Adut
2015, printed 2019
From the Studio series 2015
Digital type C print
Image: 59.4 x 84.1cm
Sheet: 63.6 x 92.7cm
ed. 3/10
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Atong Atem, courtesy Mars Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

‘The Studio series … has developed into an exploration of my blackness and my identity and culture through African cultural iconography, black visual languages, and diasporic traditions represented in the act of posing for a photograph. The photos are traditional, staged studio photographs similar to those found in my family albums and the photo albums of many people in the diaspora – they’re bright, colourful and depict a very precarious moment in African history between traditionalism and cultural changes brought on by colonialism … This Studio series responds to the ethnographic gaze of colonial photographs of black people and speaks to the importance of creating and owning one’s own narrative and depictions.’ ~ Atong Atem, 2019

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (installation view)

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (installation view)

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983)
Australia in black and white (installation views)
2018
Ink on paper
(a-p) 56.0 x 38.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Vincent Namatjira/Copyright Agency, Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

I’m interested in people and their stories, and how someone from today is connected with the past. I like to paint people who are famous, and paint them here in my community. Painting them in the desert puts them into an unexpected place. Having just a little bit of humour can take the power out of a serious situation, whether something is happening to you right now, or it happened long ago – it lets you be in a little bit of control again, you can get a bit of cheeky revenge. A sense of humour and a paintbrush is a powerful thing.’ ~ Vincent Namatjira

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983) 'Australia in black and white' 2018 (detail)

 

Vincent Namatjira (Australian / Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, b. 1983)
Australia in black and white (detail)
2018
Ink on paper
(a-p) 56.0 x 38.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2019
© Vincent Namatjira/Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing centre on the pedestal, Charles Summers’ Edmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877); at left, Howard Arkley’s Nick Cave (1999, below); at second left, Julie Dowling’s Federation 1901-2001 series (2001, below and at second right, Julie Rrap’s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001 (installation view)

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001 (installation view)

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Federation series: 1901-2001 (installation views)
2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
(1) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Melbin 1901-1910)
(2) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Uncle Sam 1910-1920)
(3) 60.2 × 50.4cm (Auntie Dot 1920-1930)
(4) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Ruby 1930-1940)
(5) 60.2 × 50.5cm (Mollie 1940-1950)
(6) 60.4 × 50.5cm (George 1950-1960)
(7) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Nan 1960-1970)
(8) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Ronnie 1970-1980)
(9) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Carol 1980-1990)
(10) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Julie 1990-2001)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Julie Dowling’s Federation series: 1901-2001 is a series of history paintings produced in response to the Centenary of Federation. The work registers Dowling’s dismay that the Australian Constitution did not included First Nations people when the country was declared a Federation. The narrative cycle of ten canvases, each symbolising a particular diva, presents a profound and multidimensional First Peoples history of the twentieth century. Like a family tree of resilience, the series portrays the faces of ten individual members of Dowling’s family, each affected by policies and events of history.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Federation series: 1901-2001' 2001

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Federation series: 1901-2001
2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
(1) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Melbin 1901-1910)
(2) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Uncle Sam 1910-1920)
(3) 60.2 × 50.4cm (Auntie Dot 1920-1930)
(4) 60.3 × 50.5cm (Ruby 1930-1940)
(5) 60.2 × 50.5cm (Mollie 1940-1950)
(6) 60.4 × 50.5cm (George 1950-1960)
(7) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Nan 1960-1970)
(8) 60.3 × 50.4cm (Ronnie 1970-1980)
(9) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Carol 1980-1990)
(10) 60.4 × 50.5cm (Julie 1990-2001)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Julie' 2001

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Julie
2001
From the Federation series: 1901-2001 2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
60.4 × 50.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969) 'Nan' 2001 (detail)

 

Julie Dowling (Australian / Badimaya, b. 1969)
Nan (detail)
2001
From the Federation series: 1901-2001 2001
synthetic polymer paint, earth pigments, metallic paint and glitter on canvas
60.4 × 50.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Rupert Myer, Governor, 2001
© Julie Dowling/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, Brenda L. Croft‘s Matilda (Ngambri) (2020, below); at third right, William Buelow Gould‘s John Eason (1838); at second right, Augustus Earle‘s Captain Richard Brooks (1826-1827); and at right, Augustus Earle‘s Mrs Richard Brooks (1826-1827)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964) Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant) Richard Crampton (printer) 'Matilda (Ngambri)' 2020 (installation view detail)

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964)
Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant)
Richard Crampton (printer)
Matilda (Ngambri) (installation view detail)
2020
From the Naabami (Thou shall/will see): I am/we are Barangaroo series
Inkjet print (from original tintype, wet plate collodion process) on archival paper, ed. 4/5 + 3 A/P
Image: 119.7 x 90.9cm
Sheet: 140.3 x 99.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by The Calvert-Jones Foundation 2020
© Brenda L. Croft/Copyright Agency, 2022
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ngambri woman, Dr Matilda House, is an activist who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice and equity for First Nations peoples since the 1960s. Dr House is renowned for her work in establishing the Aboriginal Legal Service in Queanbeyan and her ongoing support for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Using a photographic technique known as a collodion wet plate process, Dr Brenda L. Croft created a powerful series honouring the spirit of Cammeraygal woman, Barangaroo (c. 1750-1791) – one of the Eora Nations earliest influential figures. This portrait of Dr House forms part of the suite, and like Barangaroo, her resilience, cultural authority and fiercely held connection to place continues to inspire many contemporary First Nations women.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964) Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant) Richard Crampton (printer) 'Matilda (Ngambri)' 2020

 

Brenda L. Croft (Anglo-Australian / Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra, b. 1964)
Prue Hazelgrove (wet plate collodion process technical assistant)
Richard Crampton (printer)
Matilda (Ngambri)
2020
From the Naabami (Thou shall/will see): I am/we are Barangaroo series
Inkjet print (from original tintype, wet plate collodion process) on archival paper, ed. 4/5 + 3 A/P
Image: 119.7 x 90.9cm
Sheet: 140.3 x 99.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by The Calvert-Jones Foundation 2020
© Brenda L. Croft/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, William Buelow Gould‘s John Eason (1838); at centre, Augustus Earle‘s Captain Richard Brooks (1826-1827); and at right, Augustus Earle‘s Mrs Richard Brooks (1826-1827)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left background, AñA Wojak‘s Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (1991, below); at centre background, Julie Rrap‘s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below); and at centre on pedestal, Charles SummersEdmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at centre on pedestal, Charles SummersEdmund FitzGibbon and Sarah FitzGibbon (1877); at centre background, AñA Wojak‘s Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (1991, below); and at right, Julie Rrap‘s Persona and shadow: Madonna (1984, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954) 'Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden' 1991 (installation view)

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954)
Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden (installation view)
1991
Oil and gold leaf on cedar panel
Support: 121.5 x 103.0cm
Gift of Lesley Saddington 2015
© AñA Wojak
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

AñA Wojak describes themselves as a ‘cross-disciplinary artist working in performance, painting, assemblage, installation and theatre design, with a particular interest in site-specificity, ritual and altered states’. Born in Australia, they studied in Gdansk, Poland in the period of martial law, attaining a master’s degree in fine arts in 1983. Wojak has been an Archibald finalist twice, a Portia Geach finalist several times and a Sculpture by the Sea finalist four times; they won the Blake Prize for religious art in 2004.

Anthony Carden (1961-1995), activist, studied acting in New York in the early 1980s before returning home to work in theatre, film and television in Sydney and Melbourne. After being diagnosed with AIDS, he joined ACTUP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and became a lobbyist for better standards of medical care, improved hospital facilities, and effective safe sex education. An activist against discrimination in all its forms, he was a prominent advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. With Clover Moore, then the Member for Bligh in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, he helped raise $1 million for the refurbishment of St Vincent’s Hospital’s Ward 17 South, Australia’s first dedicated ward for HIV/AIDS patients. He died five years after his diagnosis.

AñA Wojak met Carden at an ACTUP meeting in 1991, at which time the artist had begun working on a series exploring ideas of sainthood and martyrdom. Wojak painted Carden in the guise of Saint Acacius, an early Christian martyr, as he was ‘someone who was working for the rights of others whilst at the same time suffering himself’. Employing gold leaf and a blue paint derived from lapis lazuli, the work is intended to evoke Byzantine icons and Italian Renaissance altarpieces. The portrait was displayed in Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994-1995; at Carden’s wake; and later in Ward 17 South before being purchased by Carden’s mother, Lesley Saddington.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd updated 2021 [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954) 'Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden' 1991

 

AñA Wojak (Australian, b. 1954)
Acacius (Stigmata) – Tony Carden
1991
Oil and gold leaf on cedar panel
Support: 121.5 x 103.0cm
Gift of Lesley Saddington 2015
© AñA Wojak

 

Julie Rrap. 'Persona and shadow: Madonna' 1984

 

Julie Rrap (Australian, b. 1950)
Persona and shadow: Madonna
1984
Cibachrome photograph
Image and sheet: 194.7 × 104.6cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Michell Endowment, 1984
© Julie Rrap

 

 

Julie Rrap dissects and subverts conventional visions of women in art history, so often depicted as ‘the Madonna’. This work is from a series called Persona and Shadow in which Rrap responded to her experience of seeing so few women artists represented in major contemporary art shows in Europe during the early 1980s. Rap takes outlines from work by Edvard Munch and incorporates a fractured photographic self-portrait. Her resulting vision personally and powerfully counters the dominant narrative of women in the art world.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at second left, John Citizen’s Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley’s ‘Booth’s Puddle’ 1985, from Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile) No. 3 (1996, below); at third right, TextaQueen’s Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011 (2011, below); and at right, Guido Maestri’s Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (2009, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

John Citizen (Gordon Bennett, Australian 1955-2014) 'Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley's 'Booth's Puddle' 1985, from Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile) No. 3' 1996 (installation view)

 

John Citizen (Gordon Bennett, Australian 1955-2014)
Eddie Mabo (after Mike Kelley’s ‘Booth’s Puddle’ 1985, from Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile) No. 3 (installation view)
1996
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Support: 168.0 x 152.5cm
Purchased with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999
© Gordon Bennett Estate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

John Citizen is the artistic alter ego of Australian artist Gordon Bennett (1955-2014), painter and multi-media artist, addressed issues of identity and power in a postcolonial context. Within two years of graduating from the Queensland College of Art in 1988 he was awarded the prestigious Moët and Chandon Fellowship. He had numerous solo exhibitions and was represented in many travelling exhibitions within Australia and overseas. Of indigenous Australian and Anglo-Celtic descent, he was concerned with the use of language in delineating ethnocentric boundaries, viewing his work as ‘history painting’ in that it indicated the ways in which history is constructed after the event. Bennett is represented under both John Citizen and Gordon Bennett in many state, regional and tertiary collections.

Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1937-1992), Torres Strait Islander man, initiated a legal case for native title against the State of Queensland in 1982. Along with his fellow Meriam people, Mabo was convinced that he owned his family’s land on Murray Island (Mer) in Torres Strait. By contrast, Queensland Crown lawyers argued that on annexation in 1879, all the land had become the property of the Crown. In 1992, the seven Justices of the High Court found 6-1 in favour of Mabo and his co-plaintiffs, overturning the accepted view that Australia had been terra nullius (empty land) before white settlement. Mabo died before the historic decision, which was to lead to the Land Title Act of 1993, and permanently to alter the way Australians think about Aboriginal land ownership.

John Citizen is the artistic alter ego of Australian artist Gordon Bennett (1955-2014). Bennett, who worked under his own name and that of John Citizen, grew up in Nambour, Queensland and only learned of his mother’s Indigenous heritage in his early teens. He went to art school as a mature student. Stating early in his career that ‘the bottom line of my work is coming to terms with my Aboriginality,’ he continued to engage with questions of cultural and personal identity, interrogating Australia’s colonial past and postcolonial present through a succession of allusive postmodern works. He won the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1997, and the NGV mounted a touring exhibition, Gordon Bennett, in 2007-2008. Bennett said that when he began to think about Eddie Mabo he ‘could not think of him as a real person … I only [knew] the Eddie Mabo of the “mainstream” news media, a very two-dimensional “copy” of the man himself.’ In making his portrait of Mabo, he used a newspaper image and headlines from newspaper articles about the Native Title furore, and combined them with an image by the American artist Mike Kelley. ‘To me the image of Eddie Mabo stood like the eye of a storm,’ Bennett said, ‘calmly asserting his rights while all around him the storm, a war of words and rhetoric, raged.’

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd updated 2020 [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

TextaQueen (Australian, b. 1975) 'Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011' 2011 (installation view)

 

TextaQueen (Australian, b. 1975)
Creature from the Black Platoon starring Gary Foley 2011 (installation view)
2011
From the series We don’t need another hero
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
Frame: 119.0 x 135.0cm
Sheet: 97.5 x 127.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased, 2011
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Through a series of fictional movie posters, TextaQueen explores a re-writing of colonial history by subverting roles of power. This work combines film posters to subvert the original leading white film cast, creating a mash-up of Gary Foley as a powerful Blak militia. Foley is a renowned Indigenous activist, known for his involvement in the black Power Movement in Australia, which saw the formation of the Aboriginal Legal Service and Medical Service Redfern in the 1970s to counter the problem of police harassment. Here, TextQueen poses Foley as an outlaw of his post-apocalypse, representing him as a survivor while simultaneously creating a platform for the Indigenous experiences of colonisation and racism to be acknowledged and recognised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Gary Foley (b. 1950) Indigenous activist and historian, has written extensively on Indigenous political movements and maintains the Koori History Website, an intensive history archive and education resource. Of Gumbainggir descent, at seventeen Foley moved from his native Grafton to Sydney. There, inspired by the biography of African-American human rights activist Malcolm X, he was instrumental in establishing Sydney’s Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Medical Service, and in 1972 he came to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. The first Indigenous Director of the Aboriginal Arts Board, he was Senior Curator for Southeastern Australia at Museum Victoria from 2001 to 2005. Since 2005 Foley has lectured and undertaken postgraduate research at the University of Melbourne.

TextaQueen’s (b. 1975) portrait of Gary Foley is from a series featuring ‘people of colour as outlaws of their post-apocalypse, drawn as if posters for fictional movies. As an artist of colour … I’ve sought out peers from various sociocultural and racial backgrounds to propose characters, costumes, and fictional surrounds to represent themselves as survivors of their Armageddon.’ Gary Foley launched the exhibition of the series in Melbourne.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974) 'Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu' 2009 (installation view)

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (installation view)
2009
Oil on linen
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Born blind, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (1970-2017), was a talented musician with an extraordinary voice. Gurrumul was a self-taught instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano, drunks and yidaki. Growing up on the remote island of Gallwin’ku (Elcho Island), Gurrumul was taught all Yolngu culture in song, dance, art and ceremony. His gentle songs draw reference to these teachings of sacred animals, the sea and seasons, ancestors and reverence for the land. Guido Maestri’s portrait of the musician was created after the artist saw Gurrumul perform in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 2008. Using just one colour and applied by building upon layers of thin oil paint, this portrait plays homage ad respect to one of Australia’s most influential musicians.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974) 'Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu' 2009

 

Guido Maestri (Australian, b. 1974)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
2009
Oil on linen
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Arthur, Wik elder’, from the series ‘Returning to places that name us’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian / Big River/Ben Lomond, b. 1953)
Arthur, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver photograph
96.1 × 121.3cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Milton and Penny Harris, 2007

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953) 'Gladys Tybingoomba' 2001

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian / Big River/Ben Lomond, b. 1953)
Wik Elder, Gladys Tybingoomba
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver photograph
95.5 × 123.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Milton and Penny Harris, 2007

 

 

These intimate portraits of Wik Elders from the community of Aurukun, Far North Queensland, were inspired by the hard-fought battle for custodianship and recognition of the Wik people’s connection to traditional land and waterways. In this image, Maynard documents cultural leader and activist Gladys Tybingoompa, who is remembered today as a prolific figure in the Wik vs Queensland Case and a trailblazer for Indigenous land rights across Australia.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing at left, Peter Corlett’s The connoisseur II (1984); at second left, Howard Arkley’s Nick Cave (1999, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Howard Arkley (Australia 1951-1999) 'Nick Cave' 1999

 

Howard Arkley (Australia 1951-1999)
Nick Cave
1999
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
175.2 x 135.2 x 4.3cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by L Gordon Darling AC CMG 1999
© Estate of Howard Arkley. Licensed by Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957) 'The surfers' 1989 (installation view)

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The surfers (installation view)
1989
Type C photograph
76.4 x 92.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1991
© Anne Zahalka/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Anne Zahalka is best known for her photographs that address issues such as racial stereotyping, gender and difference. Using images largely drawn from art historical sources to create elaborately constructed sets, Zahalka’s work raises questions about identity, place and nationhood. The daughter of European immigrants displaced during the war, themes of belonging and national identity are intrinsic to Zahalka’s practice, allowing her to comment on the changing role migration and multiculturalism have had in Australia throughout history. The surfers challenge stereotypical representations of Australian beach-goers, presenting them against a painted backdrop of surf and sand.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957) 'The surfers' 1989

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
The surfers
1989
Type C photograph
76.4 x 92.5cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1991
© Anne Zahalka/Licensed by Copyright Agency, Australia

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960) 'The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)' 1985

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)
1985
Type C photograph on paper
Image: 50.7 x 77.3cm
Frame: 74.5 x 99.0cm
Gift of the artist 1998. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
© Tracey Moffatt

 

 

One of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Tracey Moffatt grew up in Brisbane and moved to Sydney after studying at the Queensland College of Art. She worked in photography, video and filmmaking, helped establish the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, and was part of the group of creatives engaged in reshaping the representation of First Nations peoples in the visual and performing arts. When Moffatt photographed him in 1985, Yolngu man David Gulpilil AM (1953-2021) had already appeared in several major film and television productions, including Walkabout (1971), Storm Boy (1976), The Last Wave (1977) and The Timeless Land (1980). This portrait of him was shown in NADOC ’86, which Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi artist Michael Riley described as the first exhibition where Aboriginal artists ‘were dictating … how they wanted to show images of their own people.’ Moffatt’s image of Gulpilil lazing at Bondi Beach might seem benignly tongue-in-cheek, but in fact makes an incisive reference to colonialism and the dispossession on which Australia’s supposedly egalitarian, laid-back lifestyle is based.

This work and Moffatt’s portrait of Nunukul and Yugambeh dancer Russell Page (1968-2002) were the first two photographs acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra website Nd [Online] Cited 02/07/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture' at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing photographs from Brenda L. Croft's 'A man about town' series 2004

 

Installation view of the exhibition WHO ARE YOU: Australian Portraiture at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne showing photographs from Brenda L. Croft’s A man bout town series (2004, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965) 'A hostile landscape' 2003, printed 2004 (installation view)

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965)
A hostile landscape (installation view)
2003, printed 2004
From A man about town series 2004
84.0 × 124.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2004
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Brenda Croft stumbled upon the two photographs A hostile landscape and A man about town in 1997, while sorting the material possessions of her late father. As Croft has written, ‘I carried these images around in my mind for the next seven years, returning to them often and wondering about the city and countryscapes, the period in which they were set and the anonymous people in them’. The two photographs show Croft’s father as a solitary figure in the urban landscape. These depictions contrast with typical representations of the ‘businessman’ within society, which portray a white, middle-class man. These photographs also work to reposition prevailing imagery of Aboriginal Australians living purely in remote areas, as opposed to city environments.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965) 'A man about town' 2003

 

Brenda L. Croft (Australian / Gurindji/Mutpurra, b. 1965)
A man about town
2003, printed 2004
From A man about town series 2004
84.0 × 124.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2004

 

Edward Schafer & Co., Melbourne (retailer) 'Belt buckle' c. 1900

 

Edward Schafer & Co., Melbourne (retailer)
Belt buckle
c. 1900
15 ct gold, garnets, enamel
(a-b) 6.2 x 8.3 x 1.8cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Altmann Collection of Australian Silver
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by John and Jan Altmann, Founder Benefactors, 1986

 

Michael Riley (Australian / Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, 1960-2004) 'Maria' 1986, printed 2013

 

Michael Riley (Australian / Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, 1960-2004)
Maria
1986, printed 2013
From the Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990 series
Inkjet print on paper
39.1 x 40.9cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.
Purchased 2013
© Michael Alan Riley/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970) Trent Walter (printer) (Australian, b. 1980) 'Marcia Langton' 2009

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Trent Walter (printer) (Australian, b. 1980)
Marcia Langton
2009
Screenprint on paper
252.0 x 242.0 x 7.1cm
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2009
© Brook Andrew/Copyright Agency, 2022

 

John Nixon (Australian, b. 1949) 'Self Portrait (non-objective composition) (yellow cross)' 1990

 

John Nixon (Australian, b. 1949)
Self Portrait (non-objective composition) (yellow cross)
1990
Enamel paint on plywood
177.6 x 165.0cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Chase Manhattan Overseas Corporation, Fellow, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

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07
Aug
22

Exhibition: ‘Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander’ at Centre Pompidou, Paris