Charles Blackman

1928 - Present

Biography

Charles Blackman was a self taught painter. As a voracious reader, he learned from reference material which he scoured and from looking at the work of other artists. The two most important influences on the young Blackman were the precocious French poet Arthur Rimbaud and the symbolist painter Odilon Redon. Through them, Blackman evolved a philosophical view that for him, art making was primarily autobiographical. His first significant works executed in the 1950s was the Schoolgirl series in which Blackman spun the duality of dream and reality. In 1952, he held his first exhibition in his studio in Hawthorn. About this time he met art patrons Sunday and John Reed, and Barbara Patterson, a writer who was to have the most profound effect on his life. Through Barbara who was blind, Blackman developed a deeper understanding of literature, frequently reading to her, He found through the process of reading aloud that he processed and absorbed imagery more deeply. On hearing Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland from Barbara's talking book, where the enquiring Alice, physically changed as she moved through to her new world, seemed to mirror Barbara's extended body shape as Barbara reached the end of her pregnancy. The following Alice series is a tribute to Barbara 'to give sight to her poetry'.

Blackman and like minded figurative painters including Arthur Boyd, John Brack, John Perceval, Robert Dickerson, David Boyd and Clifton Pugh all dedicated to the figurative, demonstrated their opposition to abstractionism in a jointly held exhibition ''The Antipodeans'' in 1959. Again exploring duality, Blackman's work of this time revolves around girls and both real and imaginary bouquets of flowers, where he uses the flowers and colour to express shades feeling.

By the end of the 1950s his work had cut a path for itself on the Australian art scene, with themes of childhood, innocence and blindness being tackled in an entirely new way. As Thomas Shapcott once said of him,

"This work is a journey through a strangely intense but various territory. His paintings are often dark with submerged threat and danger, but these are part of the forces which the innocent, the voyager, must encounter if the journey is to be made." (May, 1988).

In 1959-60 Blackman enjoyed much success winning the Helena Rubenstein prize and was selected to exhibit in the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The Blackman family moved to London in 1961, living away from Australian shores for several years. However, missing the sunny climes and Australian beaches, by 1967 Blackman had acquired a home in Sydney. In the late 1960s, Blackman undertook a number of large canvasses featuring nudes and cats. By the end of the 1970s, Blackman had commenced a new relationship with Genevieve de Couvreur celebrated through a series of paintings comprising literary, musical and psychological themes. They are, according to art critic Sandra McGrath 'the strongest most provocative and psychological arresting performance of his career.'

During the 1980s, Blackman spent considerable time working on sets for a number of ballets. The sets for Alice in Wonderland, were described as 'stunning' by the Australian newspaper. In 1987 he is responsible for establishing the concept behind the Moet et Chandon Australian Art fellowship for young Australian painters to study in France.

Blackman's images of the hidden strengths and resourcefulness of those who are vulnerable children, women and the blind project a power that has not been dimmed by time. His imagery speaks on a universal level.

Blackman is represented in the National collection and in all state galleries in addition to private and corporate collections throughout Australia and internationally.

Exhibitions

2006

Alice in Wonderland, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

1994

A Line Around A Dream, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

1993

Schoolgirls and Angels, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

1992

Petits Visages, Sherman Galleries, Sydney

Australian Modernism: The Complexity and the Diversity, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

1991

Spring Exhibition, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

1990

The Art of Charles Blackman, BMG Fine Art, Sydney

1989

The Antipodeans: Another Chapter, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne; Nolan Gallery, Canberra; S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney

1988

The Schoolgirl Years (1951-1953), Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Recent Acquisitions to the Heide Collection, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria

1987

The Early Years (1954-1955), Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Innocence and Danger: An Artist's View of Childhood, by Robert Rooney, Heide Part and Art Gallery, Victoria

1985

Australian Modernism: The Heide Collection, Heide Part and Art Gallery, Victoria

1983

Canecutter's Dream series, Quentin Gallery, Perth

Alice in Wonderland, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria

Orpheus, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane; Barry Stern Galleries, Sydney; Australian Galleries, Melbourne

1982

Selected Works from the Heide Collection, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria

1979

Rooms and Gardens, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

1978

Graphics: Mother Goose and Other Tales, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

1977

Paris Drawings, Georges Gallery, Melbourne

Graphics: Mother Goose and Other Tales, Barry Stern Galleries, Sydney

1976

Celebration of Surfers and 100 Drawings from Paris, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

1975

Paris Drawings, Albert Hall, Arts Council of Australia, ACT Division, Canberra

1972

Tapestries and Paintings, Clune Galleries, Sydney; South Yarra Galleries, Melbourne

1968

Park and Other Paintings, South Yarra Galleries, Melbourne

1966

Reflections, Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane

Alice in Wonderland, Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane

1963

Australian Painting Today, shown as Richards Memorial Prize Exhibition in Brisbane and from there toured Australia and abroad

Some Overseas Painters, King Street Gallery, Cambridge, UK

Australian Painting and Sculpture in Europe Today, Metropolitan New Art Centre, Folkestone, UK (sponsored by the British Arts Council); also toured Germany and Holland

Australian Art: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary, Tate Gallery, London

1962

Overseas Australians, Bonython Art Gallery, Adelaide

Commonwealth Art Today, Commonwealth Institute Gallery, London

House Show, Matthiesen Gallery, London

British Arts Council Exhibition of Australian Painters toured Britain

1961

Twenty Nations Exhibition, Saigon, South-East Asia (Bronze Medal)

Hallmark Annual Award Exhibition, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

Biennale des Jeunes, Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris (Australia represented by Blackman, Daws, Whiteley)

Recent Australian Paintings, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

Artist in the Making, Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney

1960

Anniversary Show, Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney

Rubinstein Invitation Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (toured all states)

Crouch Memorial Prize Exhibition, City of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria

1959

Group Show, Australian Galleries, Melbourne

Rubinstein Invitation Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Antipodeans Exhibition, Victorian Artists' Society Galleries, Melbourne (included Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, Blackman, Brack, Dickerson, Perceval and Pugh)

Melbourne Painters, Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney

Survey III : Figurative Painting, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (included Blackman, Boyd, Nolan, Perceval, Pugh, Williams)

Melbourne Painters, Newcastle Region Art Gallery; Australian Galleries, Melbourne; Skinner Galleries, Perth

1956

Contemporary Art Society of Australia General State Annual Exhibition, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Gallery of Contemporary Art inaugural Gift Exhibition, Melbourne

1955

Contemporary Art Society of Australia Annual Exhibition, Preston Motors Showroom, Melbourne

1954

Contemporary Art Society of Australia Annual Exhibition, Tye's Gallery, Melbourne

Royal Tour Contemporary Art Society of Australia Exhibition, Melbourne

1953

8 Melbourne Painters, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney

1952

Private exhibition at artist's Hawthorn studio

Achievements, Collections & Commissions

'''ACHIEVEMENTS:''

'''1997'''

OBE

'''1963'''

Georges Invitation Art Prize, Georges Gallery Melbourne (one painting and one drawing)

'''1960'''

Helena Rubinstein Scholarship, Melbourne

George Crouch Prize, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

'''1958'''

George Crouch Prize, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

Rowney prize, Richmond Gallery Melbourne

'''SELECTED COLLECTIONS:''

Art Gallery of Ballarat

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of Western Australia

Australian National University

Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum

Contemporary Art Society, London

Hallmark Collection, USA

Monash University

Musee de l'Art Moderne, Paris

Museum of Modern Art of Australia

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria

Newcastle City Art Gallery

Queensland Art Gallery

Reserve Bank of Australia, Brisbane

Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney

Swindon City Art Gallery, UK

Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery

University of Melbourne

University of South Australia

University of Queensland

University of Western Australia

Worcester Museum, USA

Bibliography

Amadio, N., ''Charles Blackman: The Lost Domains'', A. H. & A. W. Reed Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1980

Amadio, N., ''Charles Blackman's Paris Dreaming, A Celebration of a Citu of the Imagination'', A. H. & A. W. Reed Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1980

Blackman, B., 'The Antipodean affair', ''Art and Australia'', Vol. 5, No. 4, March 1968, pp. 607-16

Blackman, C., 'Rainforest Dreaming', ''Stages'', magazine of the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, June 1989

Catalano, G., ''The Years of Hope: Australian Art and Criticism 1959 - 1968'', Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1981

Finemore, B., ''Freedom from Prejudice'', National Gallery of Victoria Quarterly Bulletin'', National Gallery of Victoria, 1977

Hughes, R., ''The Art of Australia'', Pelican Books, Great Britain, 1970

Mathew, R., ''Charles Blackman'', Georgian House, Melbourne, 1965

McCulloch, A., 'The Art of Charles Blackman', ''Meanjin XI'', 1952, pp.44-5

Pringle, J. D., ''Australian Painting Today'', Thames and Hudson, London, 1966

Rooney, R., ''Innocence and Danger: An Artist's View of Childhood'' (exhibition catalogue), Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne, 1987

Shapcott, T., ''Focus on Charles Blackman'', University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1967

Smith, B., ''Australian Painting 1788 - 1970'', Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1971