Artist, John Brack was born on 10 May 1920. An Australian painter, he was a member of the Antipodeans group; Art Master at Melbourne Grammar School (1952–1962); and Head of the National Gallery of Victoria Art School (1962–1968). He produced iconic paintings such as “Collins Street, 5.00 pm” in 1955, as featured in this post. This famous work indicates a representation of the knock-off or rush hour of a post-war city center of Melbourne. Set in a bleak palette of browns and greys, it was a comment on the conformity of everyday life, with all figures looking almost identical.
A related painting and companion piece, The Bar, (1954) was modelled on Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, and satirised the six o’clock swill – a social ritual arising from the early closing hour of Australian bars at that time. Brack’s paintings and drawings showed satirical commentary on the ‘Great Australian Dream’, either being set in the newly expanding post-war suburbia or taking the life of those who lived there as their subject matter. Many have compared the similarity of Brack’s crowd movement scene as to that of Salford artist Laurence Stephen Lowry. For a Lowryesque comparison, see my original Lowry post.
John Brack died on 11 February, 1999 in South Melbourne, Victoria. You can see the original paintings as mentioned above, at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australian art collection in the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square.
Despite the blatant similarity, both are art. One hangs in the gallery. The other, a copy, represents street art. So tell me, which do you prefer?