Charles Blackman ~ Australia Art ~ 183 Slides ~ Leading Artist
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Author's Note: My program on Australian art has been very popular here. I wanted to follow it up with a specific Australian artist. So I went back through them and could find pros and cons with every one of them. Sidney Nolan, Arthur Streeter and Charles Conder were some other painters I seriously considered. In the end though, I could not resist Charles Blackman as the first artist.
The reason I chose him is that he captured the mood and feelings of his place during his time as an Australian the best. That was more important to me than whether he could render a scene more perfectly, or not, than the other three. I believe I could find out what I needed to know about Australia from Charles Blackman. I’d have the right sense of the place.
I have never been a big fan of Alice in Wonderland but Blackman’s Alice has managed to captivate me in his series. I also didn’t imagine my liking paintings of schoolgirls, especially of one who had been murdered. Blackman persuaded me otherwise. He definitely has a way about him.
I hope you enjoy Blackman’s work as much as I do. CKI
~ Blackman’s paintings conveyed disquiet at being alone in the urban world.
~ his images tended towards the dreamlike with touches of foreboding and mystery
~ the feminine psyche shows up repeatedly in Blackman’s paintings because of his many childhood memories of his mother and sisters.
~ his being a constant reader of adolescent fantasies also shows up in his paintings and especially in his hugely popular Alice in Wonderland series.
~ The National Gallery of Victoria exhibited the complete Alice in Wonderland series in 2006. The series is considered one of the most important in Australian art
~ describes his paintings as “more feeling than art.”
~ Blackman’s work has always been markedly romantic. He is poetic about depicting human relationships. He covers the gamut of emotions: grief, guilt, love, loss, dreams and memories.
~ His style has been likened to the magic realism of Andrew Wyeth in America (“Christina’s World”) and Alex Coville in Canada.
~ on the personal front, Blackman had his share of difficulties. He went through bouts of alcoholism, several divorces and then got dementia in his extreme old age.
~ Blackman was another key Australian artist who was nurtured and developed at Heide, the Reeds’ place in the country.
~ John and Sunday Reed supported many Australian artists beginning in the early 1950s. They were among Blackman’s first collectors.
~ Sunday introduced Blackman to John Shaw Neilson’s poetry, which was another inspiration for his Schoolgirl paintings.
~ Blackman’s Alice in Wonderland series is filled with Blackman’s experiences staying at Heide.
~ Blackman also permanently housed all of his original archival material, The Charles Blackman Papers, at the Heide Museum in 2013.
~ In 1956 Blackman listened to an audiobook version (produced by the BBC) of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
~ Blackman said, “I hadn't read it, so I didn't see any illustrations of it. I came to it cold.”
~ That same year his wife Barbara began to lose her eyesight.
~ Blackman saw a connection between the two events which he wanted to paint.
~ Blackman read “Alice in Wonderland” to his wife as her sight continued to wane.
~ Alice’s experiences with irrational situations and being constantly frustrated by them was very like Barbara’s frustrations with progressive vision loss.
~ Thus, Carroll’s journey of the imagination, combined with Blackman’s personal life and artistry, produced his most well known art work.
~ Blackman produced 46 major Alice works in a 12 month period.