Through Artists’ Eyes: Australian Suburbs and their Cities, 1919-1945
Miegunyah Press, $69.95 hb, 238 pp
The tempting cover leads to a feast of 164 colour pictures, which you will fall upon with delight. Despite the title, almost all are of Melbourne and Sydney, places most Australians know well enough to enjoy pleased shocks of recognition. There are two highly specific Perth roofscapes, but a futurist speeding tram in Adelaide could be anywhere, and so could the industry at Yallourn, or sexual and racial tension at Townsville in 1942. Even if you come from the bush, you will know the city markets, cathedrals, law courts, showgrounds, Circular Quay and Harbour Bridge, Flinders Street Station and Collins Street trams, Town Hall concerts, Tivoli showgirls, Manly, St Kilda, racy Kings Cross lats, a frisson of ‘slums’. The author says he chose the works of art solely for their subject matter, yet he certainly appreciates aesthetic force. It’s a lively anthology of transport and other social nodes, parklands, beaches, building construction, shopping, entertainment. It makes the familiar look unexpectedly interesting.