Jane Clark

Far too few Australian artists have been the subject of comprehensive biographies. Gary Werskey mentions Humphrey McQueen’s 784-page Tom Roberts (1996) as an inspiration. Of course, there are art monographs and retrospective exhibition catalogues, but those are not life stories. With seventy-six colour plates and another fifty-one images in the text, Werskey’s thoroughly researched Picturing a Nation, set in rich historical and social context, is most welcome. As he observes, A.H. Fullwood’s life was ‘as full of pathos and plot turns as a three-volume Victorian novel’.

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Although this not-to-be-missed offering from the National Gallery of Victoria has been billed as a ‘two-part exhibition’, it is a much more complex entity than that. In the words of the three lead curators – Cathy Leahy, Judith Ryan, and Susan van Wyck – it ‘explores different perspectives on Australia’s shared history in ...

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This fabulous-looking fiftieth issue of the National Gallery of Victoria’s more or less annual art journal, with its traffic-stopping Rosalie Gascoigne cover, is a birthday package. This year marks the Gallery’s 150th anniversary, and the essays in this Art Journal of the National Gallery of Victoria together reveal much about what the institution has been doing since its foundation in 1861. There are twenty-six articles by twenty-seven authors; twenty-two of them current NGV staff members, including the current director and his deputy. It is a great team effort and a beautifully produced volume, with excellent spot-gloss-varnished illustrations throughout, presenting original scholarly research in an enjoyably accessible format.

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Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris by by Deborah Edwards, with Denise Mimmocchi, David Thomas and Anne Gérard

by
November 2010, no. 326

For those who saw the recent Rupert Bunny retrospective in Sydney, Melbourne, or Adelaide, where there were accompanying lecture programs, an informative audio guide, a lively children’s guide, and frilly knickers and parasols afterwards in the gallery shop, Rupert Bunny: Artist in Paris is a fine record of the exhibition. If you missed the show, this book provides a very good ‘virtual tour’, with works grouped both chronologically and thematically, all exhibits reproduced, plus full-page details of the artist’s fin-de-siècle beauties, decorative idylls and poetic mythological subjects. It is also a great deal more.

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That Australia’s first national school of painters were ‘city bushmen’ is well documented. Tom Roberts began his career as a photographer in Collingwood, Frederick McCubbin in the family’s West Melbourne bakery and Arthur Streeton as an apprentice lithographer. Stories about their plein air painting excursions to Box Hill, Mentone, and Eaglemont are often told. The useful art historical label ‘The Heidelberg School’ first seems to have been used by a local journalist reviewing Streeton’s and Walter Withers’ work done chiefly in this attractive suburb where, with others of like inclination, they have established a summer congregation for out-of-door painting (The Australasian Critic,  l July 1891). Leigh Astbury, however, defines his use of the term Heidelberg School ‘in its current broader sense, that is, artists of a more ‘progressive tendency working in Melbourne and Sydney in the 1880s and 1890s’.

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