A Maxi-dress is no hum-drum for either of these Meldrum’s

Portrait of Madame de Tarczynska in Polish costume 1917. oil on canvas mounted on composition board, (154.4x 89.2  cm).

In this painting Max Meldrum depicted Madame de Tarczynska in Polish national costume. Through vigorous brushstrokes, pure bright colours and strong tonal contrasts he produced a lively image of a woman. For Meldrum, however, the human subject was of less importance than the act of painting itself. He used his broad brushstrokes to present the form of his subject as it is defined by light and shade. He was interested in applying his bold colour against a characteristically sombre background to record visual appearance.

Scottish born Australian painter, Duncan “Max” Meldrum  was born at 27 Oxford Street, in Edinburgh, on 3rd December 1875.  The family emigrated to Australia in 1889 and Meldrum studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne. Ten years later, in 1899, he won the Victorian Travelling Scholarship, under which he chose to complete his art education in Paris. After the initial excitement, he became disenchanted with the Paris Schools and returned to Melbourne with his family in 1912, where he lived with his parents originally in East Melbourne; and then later in St Kilda.

In 1915 he acquired a studio in Melbourne at 527 Collins Street and called it the Meldrum School of Painting which ran for 10 years from 1916-1926. Among his students were Clarice Beckett, Colin Colahan, Auguste Cornels, Percy Leason, John Farmer, Polly Hurry, Justus Jorgensen, Percy and Arnold Shore and the young Albert Ernest Newbury.

  • By 1916, Meldrum was elected President of the Victorian Artists’ Society.
  • While living in France, he married Jeanne Eugenie Nitsch, a singer with the Opéra-Comique.
  • Meldrum and his wife returned to Australia in 1931.
  • Meldrum became the founder of Australian Tonalism, a representational style of painting, as well as his portrait work, for which he won both Archibald Prizes in consecutive years – 1939 and 1940.

Max Meldrum died at 24 Belmont Avenue, in Kew, Victoria on 6th June, 1955.

  • Chinoiseries (1928) Paris, oil on canvas on composition board. Chinoiseries was painted in Paris during Meldrum’s 2nd extended period in France. It depicts his daughter Elsa dressed in a Chinese coat and yellow Japanese pajamas surrounded by oriental textiles and draperies in his studio.

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