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Tracey LockWeir

Curated by Tracey Lock-Weir, Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915–1950 at the Art Gallery of South Australia presented a re-evaluation of Max Meldrum (1875–1955) and the influential Australian tonalist phenomenon of the first half of the twentieth century. This recent exhibition was accompanied by an elegant publication in which Lock-Weir’s substantial essay (divided into readily digestible chapters) makes the claim that Meldrum and his tonalist doctrine had a more far-reaching impact than has previously been recognised. Accordingly, paintings by Meldrum and his followers – including Clarice Beckett, Colin Colahan, A.D. Colquhoun, John Farmer, Polly Hurry, Justus Jorgensen, Percy Leason, A.E. Newbury and Hayward Veal – were augmented by the work of artists more fleetingly influenced by his ideas, such as Roy de Maistre, Elioth Gruner, Lloyd Rees and Roland Wakelin. Although William Frater and Arnold Shore produced a number of tonalist paintings, Lock-Weir observes that by 1926 they had ‘broken away into colour and line’, later becoming the leading proponents of modernism in Melbourne.

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