Different Australian art periods to boost auction crowds

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 31st August, 2018

Leonard Joel’s Fine Art auction from 6.30pm Tuesday September 4 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra offer auction goers many affordable paintings from different periods of Australian art.

A scroll through the catalogue reveals many familiar names – Charles Blackman, John Brack, Hugh Sawrey, Penleigh and David Boyd, Robert Dickerson, Tim Storrier, Pro Hart, Walter Withers and James R Jackson to name but a few.

Even French-born artist Mirka Mora, who died on Monday August 27 aged 90 and was revered for her strong mainly bohemian influence on Melbourne life and culture for many decades after arriving in 1951 in Australia with her husband George, is represented in the sale through her work My Eyes are Closed to Dream 2014.

A couple of paintings are really worth considering – one being Blackman’s Owl 1957-58 which, according to Leonard Joel’s national head of art Sophie Ullin might seem to be an unusual subject choice for the artist.

“However, there are in fact a myriad of curious associations,” she writes in the catalogue entry.

“During the mid 1950s, Blackman and (fellow Australian artist) Clifton Pugh enjoyed trips to Queensland’s Glass Mountains and when reflecting on the experience Pugh remarked ‘being out painting lots and lots of times with Charles Blackman, I liked him very much. It often strikes me that you can relate a person to an animal. I could only think of Charles Blackman in relation to a bird’.”

Felicity St John Moore deepened the connection further when she revealed in the book Charles Blackman; Alice in Wonderland that “Birdie” was a nickname for Blackman which may have prompted the inspiration for Pugh’s Archibald winning portrait Charles Blackman and the blackbirds 1959, Ullin claims.

The Owl also connects to Alice in Wonderland and makes a fleeting appearance in Lewis Carroll’s iconic writings in a poem called “Tis eh Voice of the Lobster”. In contrast, Blackman grants his hybrid bird creature centre stage as a fully formed, self-assured character akin to that bestowed upon the Rabbit in his Alice series.”

Brack’s Umbrella 1977 is a typical example of the artist’s move away from his interest in the human condition (reflected in his works of the 1950s and 1960s) to renditions of every day inanimate objects such as pens, pencils, cutlery, playing cards and umbrellas following his first overseas trip in the mid-1970s.

Brack said the objects were the nearest things to hand in the studio which for him could represent figures – and represented a new visual metaphor that would permit him to express the complexity of social interconnections.  

Other works in the auction include Hugh Sawrey’s The Arrival of the New School Ma’am and Penleigh Boyd’s Ghost Gums and Figure 1921.

Auction goers should also be impressed with the likes of Donald Friend’s The Thatched Roof, David Boyd’s Children in Strawberry Field, Pro Hart’s Picnic Race, Ray Crooke’s Fijian Village and Tim Storrier’s trademark fire image The Evening Blaze.  

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