Saturday, June 30, 2012

Melbourne Weekends

The Archibald Prize - OK what's that?
I've known about it for years being an art student way, way back - but only taken a mild interest. The Archibald Prize is an Art Competition for Australian portrait artists. I need to tell you that the information that I'm about to relate to you is from research from only yesterday and today. As I said before, I had only a minor knowledge of the competition and the history behind it.

Tarrawarra is an art gallery and also a vineyard.

This year the finalist were all on view at the Tarrawarra Gallery near Healesville in the Yarra Valley, a little less than 60 kms from Melbourne. The Yarra Valley is nestled among rolling hills and mountain ranges. Its a very traditional wine growing district, much the same as Chablis in France and Napa Valley in California. The terrain is similar. I use to cycling many kilometres (miles) of training when I was in my teens and early 20s in the area.

Archibald and Henry Lawson who wrote for the Bulletin.
But back to the Archibald Prize:
The competition was established in 1921 from a bequest by Jules Francois Archibald. In actual fact, Archibald's real name was John Feltham Archibald and he was born in Geelong West, Victoria. During his 20s, he had become a devout Francophile and changed his christian names and later on his marriage certificate, his birthplace was documented as France. Archibald had a passion for journalism and after writing for several regional Victorian newspapers he established with a partner the "Bulletin Magazine". Some very great Australian writers, artists and poets contributed to the Bulletin over the years including Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson.

The first Archibald Prize winner by W,B. McInnes.
Writer, poet, story teller Banjo Patterson by John Longstaff.
William Dobell's 1948 winning portrait.
And in more recent times, Brett Whiteley's self portrait.
As Archibald's health started to fade in his latter years he bequeathed some of his money to a fountain and a portrait painting competition. The fountain was a testament to his love of France as it was decreed that it was to be designed by a French sculpture. The other bequest carries on today as the Archibald prize for the best Portrait by an Australian Artist.
Since 1921, some of those artists include William Dargie, William Dobell, Clifton Pugh, Brett Whiteley and W.B. Mc Innes but these are only the ones that I'm familiar with.

This year's finalists - I have to admit, I don't know much about, but one of the subjects, and also one of the finalists I do know a little of. He was part of my 60s - 70s period. He was an artist with the OZ magazine published by a group of Australians in the UK, probably not unlike Archibald with the Bulletin in many ways.
Martin Sharp illustrated for the OZ, and also designed posters for concerts by Dylan and Hendrix. He did LP covers for Cream. One of the portraits in this Archibald was by him and of him.

The Winning Portrait
What I did find quietly strange was that this year's winning portrait was of a person without a face, slightly Dali in fact. Judge for yourself!

The winner of the 2012 Archibald Prize was by Tim Storrier - a self portrait.
But this was my favorite. Martin Sharp by Garry Shead was part of my 60/70s era.

Jenny Sages: Self Portrait a grieving widow - After Jack

Luke Cornish portrait of Father Bob, a colorful Melbourne priest. Why has the artist then painted him in black and white?
Cornish said about his subject, "What I like about Bob is that there is no bullshit - what you see is what you get".

Marcus Callum - Self Portrait.
To me, it echos a painting in the style of the past masters, almost centuries ago.

Jun Chen - John Yu with artist
The subject, John Yu is the recipient of an MOA and a COA and Australian of the Year not that I was aware of these awards but both the artist and the subject, both Chinese have contributed to Australia.

Angus McDonald's portrait of Tim Maguire.
The artist described his subject as having a huge personality and said he wanted to paint him as looking at the viewers. You certainly get that impression when looking at this painting at the gallery.

Michael Peck - Self Portrait in the image of my son.
"The warm orange glow is the color by which I remember my childhood in the outer suburbs of Melbourne".
When viewing this portrait, Sue said the same thing - our summers were long and hot.
We travel to overseas and take the opportunity to absorb the local culture by visiting as many of the galleries, museums and cathedrals we can but everyday life seems to exclude doing this in our own backyard.
Well it's time to change this. Isn't that right Sue?


  1. Wow there are some fantastic paintings there, I am more than impressed. I think Marcus Callum's is my favourite but is a close call. I have to say I am not crazy about the winner!! Keep well Diane

    1. Diane - I agree on the winning portrait and I see so far there's two votes for the Marcus Callum self portrait.

  2. What an interesting range. The winner isn't my favourite, but then art is so subjective. I really like the Marcus Callum [feel it has echos of a 15th/16th cent Italian portrait] and the Michael Peck. Antoinette

    1. N and A,
      Tend to agree regarding the Marcus Callum portrait. It does have that old world feel about it.

  3. This years winner in no way compares to some of the wonderful works of art previously exhibited in the Archibald Portrait competition .... William Dobell's 1948 "Margaret Olley" now that's what I would call a masterpiece.
    Angus McDonald's portrait of Tim Maguire gets my tick for 2012

  4. Dianne - Thought you might have some input on this subject having seen your painting preferences on your blog. Yes, I think most of Dobell's works are masterpieces. That portrait by Angus McDonald was extraordinary from close up. It was like he was looking straight at you with those eyes.

  5. I enjoyed your explanation for the art prize and looking at all the pictures. I looked at the time trials today for the Tour – I have never been to Liège – it looks like a lovely town. I did a lot of bicycling when I was growing up in France and bought a bike when we lived in SF, but here I have not used it. I have bad arthritis in the knees so I am afraid to use the bike, plus drivers around here are not very careful with bikers. Melbourne sounds like a great city. Every time I’d travel though was to go and see the family in Paris, so Melbourne was not on the way, but I got as close as Bali.

    1. Thanks for your comments Vagabonde.
      I also watched the TdF time trial and am suffering from a late night. I lived in SF in 79 on a cycling competition summer and loved the city.

  6. Magic - I managed a comment on your other blog!


  7. I rather like the winner, it's fun, one of those paintings where you see something you haven't noticed before every time you look at it.
    It's a fine collection - I have great admiration for all those talented people.

    1. Hi Jean - I must look more closely at the winner's painting but I can tell you that Sue agrees with you.


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