Charles Blackman

1928 - 2018


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.


Alice in Wonderland, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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

Schoolgirls and Angels, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Petits Visages, Sherman Galleries, Sydney
Australian Modernism: The Complexity and the Diversity, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

Spring Exhibition, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

The Art of Charles Blackman, BMG Fine Art, Sydney

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

The Schoolgirl Years (1951-1953), Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Recent Acquisitions to the Heide Collection, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Victoria

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

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

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

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

Rooms and Gardens, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

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

Paris Drawings, Georges Gallery, Melbourne
Graphics: Mother Goose and Other Tales, Barry Stern Galleries, Sydney

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

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

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

Park and Other Paintings, South Yarra Galleries, Melbourne

Reflections, Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane
Alice in Wonderland, Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Melbourne Painters, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney

Private exhibition at artist's Hawthorn studio

Achievements, Collections & Commissions


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

Helena Rubinstein Scholarship, Melbourne
George Crouch Prize, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

George Crouch Prize, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
Rowney prize, Richmond Gallery Melbourne

Art Gallery of Ballarat
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Australian National University
Australian War Memorial
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
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


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

Shapcott, Thomas, The Art of Charles Blackman, Andre Deutsch, 1989

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

St John Moore, Felicity, Charles Blackman Schoolgirls and Angels: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Charles Blackman, National Gallery of Victoria, 1993