May 2015, issue no. 371

Fiona Gruber reviews 'The Self-Portrait' by James Hall

Fiona Gruber

We live in a world obsessed with self-images. Thanks to digital photography and the Internet, we can all star in and manipulate the drama of our lives. But, as James Hall reminds us, artists have been experimenting with self-representation for centuries. From a quartzite stela of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s court sculptor Bak standing with his wife Taheri (c.1350 < ... More

The Drawing Master: Andrew Sayers' 'Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century'

Tim Bonyhady & Melinda Hinkson

Many good books are published about Australian art, but few change the way we see and understand it. When Andrew Sayers’ ​Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century appeared in August 1994, it immediately did that, as the critic Bruce James was quick to recogniseMore

Peter Hill reviews 'Order and Variation' by Kirsty Grant

Peter Hill

It was the great American Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt who organised Melbourne artist Robert Jacks’s first show in Manhattan. This was held at the New York Cultural Centre in 1971, part of a program where each exhibited artist nominated his successor. Jacks had been enjoying a stellar rise since his début solo exhibition at Gallery A in Melbourne in 1966, when he ... More

Ian Britain reviews 'Bill' by Scott Bevan

Ian Britain

‘He was a great bloke, a gentleman and a scholar,’ one of Scott Bevan’s interviewees says of his subject, the fêted and (at one stage) ill-fated painter, William Dobell. Like many others in the book, this interviewee got to know Dobell at Wangi Wangi, the little coastal township just south of Newcastle in New South Wales where the painter retreated for the la ... More

Patrick McCaughey reviews 'John Olsen' by Darleen Bungey

Patrick McCaughey

Eight years ago Darleen Bungey published a revelatory biography of Arthur Boyd. She cast shadows across the ‘idyllic’ Open Country years where the extended Boyd family lived in suburban Murrumbeena and unflinchingly detailed his declining, alcoholic years at Bundanon. Bungey’s compelling new biography of John Olsen has its share of revelations. Olsen’s weak ... More

Mary Eagle reviews 'Strange Country' by Patrick McCaughey

Mary Eagle

The cover assembles the book’s title and author’s name (writ very large) with a photograph of him, in an art gallery, before a wide yellow landscape by Fred Williams. Turning to the viewer, Patrick McCaughey is about to launch into a story that will satisfy the curiosity teased by the name of the book, Strange Country: Why Australian Painting Matters.

... More

Christopher Menz reviews 'History of Design', edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber

Christopher Menz

The Bard Graduate Center, long known for its ground-breaking studies in the decorative arts, has taken the ambitious leap of presenting a comprehensive history of decorative arts and design from 1400 to 2000, covering Asia, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. (Coverage of Australia and Oceania is planned for future editions.) At over 700 pages, this ... More

Christopher Menz reviews 'Visions of Colonial Grandeur' by Charlotte Smith and Benjamin Thomas

Christopher Menz

Not many substantial private collections of art and decorative arts in Australia have remained intact from the nineteenth century. John Twycross (1819–89) was one of Melbourne’s early art collectors, and his collection has proved to be an exception. Twycross, lured there by the gold rush, made his money as a merchant in Melbourne in the middle of the nineteenth ... More

Ian Britain reviews two titles on Walter Spies

Ian Britain

‘Spellbinding’ is an apt word to sum up the effects created by Russian-born German artist Walter Spies in his phantasmagoric, darkly glowing landscapes and figure paintings, particularly those that he fashioned when living in Java and Bali between 1923 and 1941. Tropical luxuriance has other superlative renderers in art – Gauguin, ‘Le Douanier’ Rousseau, D ... More

Peter Rose on Erik Jensen

Peter Rose
Peter Rose reviews Erik Jensen’s unusual memoir of his relationship with the troubled artist Adam Cullen.

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