Portrait of Young Girl with a Bow in Hair
- Charles Blackman
- Portrait of Young Girl with a Bow in Hair
- charcoal on paper on composition board
- 50.8 x 38.4 cm
signed upper right: Blackman 67
copyright the Estate of Charles Blackman
Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 1994
Private collection, Melbourne
A Line Around a Dream, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 23 March - 27 April 1994, touring exhibition - Ballarat and Shepparton regional galleries 1994
Simon Plant, 'A master of colours', Herald Sun, Melbourne, Tues 22 March , 1994, p.61, illus.
Susan McCulloch, 'The bush characters', Herald Sun, Melbourne, 20 April 1994, p. 73
Charles Blackman is said to have claimed that drawing was like wrapping a line around your dreams, inspiration for the Lauraine Diggins Fine Art 1994 exhibition Charles Blackman: A Line Around a Dream, which included the drawing Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair. Contemporary reviews of that exhibition noted “Blackman’s masterly control of his medium. In particular his ability to shape calm, still images which speak poetically of suffering and joy, dreams and nightmares, loneliness and love.” (Simon Plant, 'A master of colours', Herald Sun, Melbourne, Tues 22 March, 1994, p.61)
Blackman is one of Australia’s most celebrated and significant figurative artists and was an exceptional draughtsperson. His use of pen and ink, charcoal and pencil - from quick sketches to large sized works on paper - was a constant throughout his life. Blackman’s art drew on literary and musical references and was largely autobiographical. Drawing has always been an integral and essential part of Blackman’s artwork and the intimacy of his drawings are of great appeal. Although depictions of the world around him, they are often a personal reflection or response; felt rather than seen, and so evoke grander themes of human experience beyond the imagery itself. His drawings bear evidence of the personal nature of his art, used to record ideas, capture daily life, and explore composition in an expressive manner. There is, of course, an immediacy to drawings, particularly black and white images with no distractions other than the dark line across a page.
The 1960s saw Blackman complete a number of strong graphic works depicting his family, particularly with the arrival of his son Auguste in 1957 and daughter, Christabel, in 1959. In 1960 Blackman was awarded the Helena Rubenstein prize and selected to exhibit in the Whitechapel Gallery in London, where the Blackman family moved before returning to Australia in 1967.
Blackman explored themes through series of works, looking to the duality of dream and reality, many featuring a young girl. His important series of Schoolgirls (1952-55); Alice in Wonderland (1956-56) and girls with bouquets of flowers (1959-60)with their expressive use of colour, all evoke a sense of melancholy daydream and memory, they are images of personal connection and alienation.
Young Girl with a Bow in her Hair is a direct and sweet work, full of love and the innocence of childhood, with the child directly engaging the viewer. There is a calm and gentleness to the drawing, perhaps emphasized through the use of charcoal with its richness of texture and softer edge than pen or pencil. As McCulloch noted when the work was exhibited in 1994, “Interesting to contrast is 1967’s Young Girl with a Bow with 1984’s Beatrice Drawing on Herself – both drawings of his two daughters at the same age. The latter has a saccharine sweetness absent in the earlier, more direct but equally delicious work.” (Susan McCulloch, 'The bush characters', Herald Sun, Melbourne, 20 April 1994, p. 7)
It is likely the portrait was completed when the Blackman family settled back to their old home in St Lucia, Brisbane in 1967, at a time when Blackman was at the height of his powers, particularly as a master draughtsman, and remarkably adept at capturing the spirit of his sitter. (we gratefully acknowledge Auguste Blackman for this advice, 2020)
Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and in all state galleries, as well as numerous regional and university galleries, in addition to private and corporate collections throughout Australia and internationally. He was awarded an OBE in 1997 and honoured with a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Schoolgirls and Angels, in 1993 with accompanying catalogue by Felicity St John Moore.