Robert MacPherson

September 19, 2015
Robert MacPherson
Mayfair: Bethonga Gold, for B.T.O's 1995-2006
National Gallery of Australia

If Robert MacPherson (b. 1937) were a character in a novel he would test the reader’s credulity. It’s hard to believe in the idea of a conceptual artist raised in a Queensland country town, who left school early to work in a cannery and then as a musterer at a cattle station. By the age … More

Peter Godwin

September 12, 2015
Peter Godwin. Photography Stephen Oxenbury

It’s not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cézanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques-Émile Blanche, even if the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our attention is Cézanne’s anxiety – that’s Cézanne’s lesson. ” Pablo Picasso … More

Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great

August 15, 2015
Alexander ROSLIN Swedish 1718–93 Portrait of Catherine II 1776–77 (detail) oil on canvas 271.0 х 189.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-1316) Acquired from the artist, 1777

Following the death of Prince Grigory Potemkin in 1791, Catherine the Great wrote her own epitaph. Potemkin had not only been Catherine’s most trusted advisor, statesman and general, but the undisputed love of her life. Feeling her own mortality, she set down how she would like to be remembered. Catherine, by her own estimation, had … More

Salon des Refusés 2015 & Stars + Stripes

August 8, 2015
Paul Trefry, 'Homeless still human', silicone, fiberglass, horse hair, and polyester resin

Archibald season demands to be taken seriously because it’s the only time of the year most of the public feel motivated to visit the Art Gallery of NSW and associated venues. During the Archibald Prize the AGNSW is full of people – a surge in visitation that has become more crucial than ever. With both … More

A Retrospective of Chinese Archibald Finalists

August 1, 2015
Song Ling, 'My name is Fartunate – self-portrait', (2011), acrylic on canvas, 198 x 198cm

When the Archibald Prize was first awarded in 1921 it was a strictly Caucasian affair. There was not much colour to the artists or their paintings – mostly brown pictures of men in suits. The riotous creations currently lining the walls at the Art Gallery of NSW would have seemed like bad jokes to the … More

The Archibald Prize 2015

July 18, 2015
Winner: Archibald Prize 2015, Nigel Milsom, Judo house pt 6 (the white bird), oil on linen, 232 x 190 cm.

There was such a hullaballoo about the Packing Room Prize this year one might have thought that former Frenchman, Bruno Grasswill, had won both the Archibald and several versions of the Nobel Prize. In fact, he had won the kiss-of-death award, traditionally given to a picture of a good bloke or a good sort, as … More

William Dobell: Painter in Paradise

July 4, 2015
'Head of Kuta girl' (1953)
oil on hardboard, 45 x 34 cm.
Private collection

Although he was one of Australia’s best-known artists, William Dobell (1899-1970) was inordinately sensitive to criticism. After the notorious court case over his Archibald Prize win of 1943, Dobell withdrew to his hideaway in Wangi where he suffered from a series of nervous complaints. He broke out in severe dermatitis and at one point lost … More


May 2, 2015
Deirdre Bean, Image 1: 'Cape Helles', 2014, watercolour on paper and vellum. Image 2: '303 inch British Mk VII', 2014, watercolour on paper and vellum. Courtesy the artist

There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks: There’s a beach asleep and drear: There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea. There are sunken trampled graves: And a little rotting pier: And winding paths that wind unceasingly. There’s a torn and silent valley: There’s a tiny rivulet With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth. … More

Anzac Evolution

April 25, 2015
Image courtesy James Compton

Looking at Australia in the years before and after the First World War, one feels like asking: “What went wrong?” There was so much happening in those early years of nationhood, so many glorious ideals forged in the war itself, that the post-war years can only be seen as a lost opportunity. Constitutional historian, Helen … More

Robert Campbell Jr.

April 18, 2015
Robert Campbell Jnr, 'Giver of Life' (1986). Photograph: Artbank

Artbank, the Australian government’s art rental agency, has been around since 1980. It was an initiative of a Fraser administration returned to power for a third consecutive term that year – a reminder of an era when both sides of politics took an active interest in the arts. By contrast, today’s politicians seem completely devoid … More

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