Pierre Bonnard | Le Nabi le trés japonard

French painter, illustrator, and print-maker Pierre Bonnard was born in Fontenay-aux-Roses, Hauts-de-Seine on 3 October 1867. Bonnard showed a talent for drawing and water colours, as well as caricatures. He painted frequently in the gardens of his parent’s country home at Grand-Lemps near the Cote Saint-André in the Dauphiné. He also showed a strong interest in literature. Bonnard received his baccalaureate in the classics, and to satisfy his father, earned his license in law, and began practicing as a lawyer beginning in 1888. While he was studying law, he also attended art classes at the Académie Julian in Paris where he met Edouard Vuillard and Ker Xavier Roussel. He also sold his first commercial work of art, a design for a poster for France-Champagne, which helped him convince his family that he could make a living as an artist. He set up his first studio at on rue Lechapelais and began his career as an artist.

Bonnard was a leading figure in the transition from Impressionism to Modernism. He painted landscapes, urban scenes, portraits and intimate domestic scenes, where the backgrounds, colours and painting style usually took precedence over the subject. After the summer holidays of 1888, Bonnard and his friends from the Académie Julian became the founding members of the Post-Impressionist group of avant-garde painters, known as Les Nabis. This was an informal group of artists with different styles and philosophies, but common artistic ambitions. Two of Bonnard’s featured images include:

  • Siesta (1900) oil on canvas (Felton Bequest, National Gallery of Victoria). Siesta belongs to Bonnard’s ‘realist’ period during which he painted frank portraits documenting his relationship with his model and muse Marthe Boursin. Marthe’s pose has been reconfigured to evoke the Borghese Hermaphrodite, a famously erotic sculpture in the Louvre. Siesta was well-known among Paris’s literary and artistic circles and was once owned by Gertrude Stein.
  • Portrait of Reine Natanson and Marthe Bonnard (1928) oil on canvas, School of Paris, Musee D’art Moderne. Reine was the second wife of Thadee Natanson, former editor of the Revue Blanche and a close friend of Bonnard. She sat several times during 1920-21 and is wearing the red dress.

From 1893 until her death, Bonnard lived with Marthe de Méligny (1869–1942) aka Maria Boursin (birth name). They married in 1925. In the years before their marriage, Bonnard had love affairs with two other women, who also served as models for some of his paintings, Renée Monchaty (the partner of the American painter Harry Lachmann); and Lucienne Dupuy de Frenelle, the wife of a doctor.

  • It has been suggested that Bonnard may have been the father of Lucienne’s second son.
  • Renée Monchaty committed suicide shortly after Bonnard and de Méligny (Boursin) married.

Bonnard was known especially for his stylized decorative qualities and his bold use of colour. His early work was strongly influenced by Paul Gauguin’s paintings; and the prints of Hokusai and other Japanese artists.

  • In 1893 Bonnard viewed a major exposition of the works of Utamaro and Hiroshige at the Durand-Rouel Gallery.  The Japanese use of multiple points of view, and bold geometric patterns in clothing, such as checkered blouses, began to appear in Bonnard’s work.
  • Because of his passion for Japanese art, Bonnard’s nickname among the Nabis became Le Nabi le trés japonard.

Working in his studio at 65 rue de Douai in Paris, Bonnard presented paintings at the Salon des Independents in 1900, and took part in an exhibition with the other Nabis at the Bernheim Jeaune Gallery. By 1905, he produced a series of nudes and portraits, and in the following year had a personal exposition at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery. Bonnard’s reputation as an artist grew and in 1918 he was selected, along with Renoir, as an Honorary President of the Association of Young French Artists.

  • Bonnard finished his last painting, The Almond Tree in Blossom, a week before his death on 23 January 1947, at his cottage on La Route de Serra Capeou near Le Cannet, on the French Riviera.
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York City organized a posthumous retrospective of Bonnard’s work in 1948, although originally it was meant to be a celebration of the artist’s 80th birthday.

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Glamourpuss posters from a previous age

Advertising in the early 1950s saw a boom in posters for both the corporate world and the everyday consumer. Wanting to appeal to a broad audience, the 50s Style posters were often brightly coloured, and often whimsical or playful in design which heightened their popularity.

Typical artists of this genre included Swiss-born Herbert Leupin and Donald Brun; Paul Rand from the United States and France’s Raymond Sauvignac, who exemplifed the style’s light-hearted qualities. The 50s Style was applied to consumer services and consumer products. Ever present were marvelous airline and traveller’s destination campaigns as well as fashion posters advertising women’s lingerie.

  • Here we have a poster featuring a white cat, advertising Enkalon stockings. It was designed by Herbert Leupin. Leupin was born in Beinwil am See, Switzerland on 20 December 1916. A graphic designer, he was known primarily for his poster art. From 1931-1934, Leupin attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel. He made his name in the 1940s through his use of the magic realism style of images for advertising consumer goods. Later, Leupin worked as an advertising consultant for the German cigarette manufacturer Reemtsma from 1951-1964. During this time he also created the Milka cow image. Leupin died in Basel on 21 September 1999.
  • The second ‘white cat’ poster: the ‘She-Cat”, was designed ca 1948 for Gaines Viso Gurtel, to advertise the female undergarment, the girdle or corset. The poster designer was Marc Von Allmen. Not much is known about Von Allmen, except that he was born in 1919 in Ovin, Switzerland and worked as an architect, graphic designer and poster artist.

Is there any significance in the fact that they are both white cats? Well, maybe. White cats have many fascinating myths and legends associated with them. As opposed to black cats which are regarded as harbingers of bad luck, white cats are seen as a symbol of good luck, purity and positivity. They symbolize rebirth, happiness, prosperity, healing and more. 

Either way, I’m sure the She-Cat is feline fine and the other displays lots of purr-sonality.    That’s two paw-some posters for you, I’m not kitten you!

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Master Hans | The Cameraman at the Court of the Tudor King

German artist and print-maker Hans Holbein the Younger, was born c. 1497 in Augsburg, Germany. He is called “the Younger” to distinguish him from his father, Hans Holbein the Elder; an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school. Holbein the Younger is known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. As a young artist in Basel, he painted murals and religious works and created designs for stained glass windows and printed books. Holbein’s works have been described as being of a Northern Renaissance style.  He attained artistic status after completing a portrait of the Reformist, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, during the Humanist Renaissance. With a recommendation from Erasmus, Holbein travelled from Basel to England in search of work in 1526. There, he was welcomed into the humanist circle of statesman, scholar and Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More; the author of Utopia (1516) and a friend of Erasmus. Holbein’s portraiture reputation grew after he painted a portrait of More and another of More and his family.

  • After heading back to Basel for four years, Holbein returned to England in 1532 where he painted many courtiers, landowners, and visitors. His most famous and perhaps greatest painting of this period is The Ambassadors. This life-sized panel painted in the tradition of the Northern Renaissance Style, portrays Jean de Dinterille, an ambassador of Francis I of France; and Georges de Selve, Bishop of Lavaur and ambassador of Charles V, who visited London in 1533. Together, they lean on a table alongside a magnificent collection of astronomical and musical instruments, sitting on top of a carpet which is now referred to as one of the ‘Holbein carpets‘ featured in some of his works. The Ambassadors incorporates symbols and paradoxes encoding enigmatic references to learning, religion, mortality and illusion  At the bottom of the work between the two men is an anamorphic (distorted) skull acting as a ‘momento mori‘ amongst the display of refinement and knowledge. The skull is recognizable only when seen from a certain angle.

By 1535, Holbein became King’s Painter to King Henry VIII and his portrait style altered. He focused more intensely on the sitters’ faces and clothing, largely omitting props and three-dimensional settings. Holbein applied this clean, craftsman-like technique to miniature and grand portraits. He not only painted portraits but created designs for jewellery, plates and other precious objects and festive decorations.

In 1537, Holbein painted what has become perhaps his most famous image King Henry VIII standing in an heroic pose with his feet planted apart. The House of Tudor monarch,  (1491-1547) is best known for his six wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr. There is a famous rhyme which recalls the fate of each wife: “Divorced, Beheaded, Died: Divorced, Beheaded, Survived”. Henry suffered a riding accident in 1536, which marked the turning point in his health. This fall was serious enough to prevent Henry from jousting and the athletic activities he loved as a young man. The consequent reduction in physical activity led to obesity; which characterizes his portraits from this time. Henry’s increasing ill temper in his later years was largely due to his physical disability and the ulcer on his leg which was so painful, it often rendered him speechless. From 1545 the monarch was carried around in a sedan chair.

  • Jane Seymour (1512-1537) was Henry’s third wife and came from an old established landed family from Wiltshire. She appears to have been something of a cypher used by her brother, to advance the family interests; and looking at this portrait, it seems to indicate that the match was hardly one based on passion. Jane died in October 1537 at the age of 25, shortly after bearing Henry’s only son, the future Edward VI. Despite the many wives, Henry chose to be buried with Jane at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. [Portrait from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano].

Princess Mary or Mary Tudor (1516-1558) was Henry’s first born and the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. She became, Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558. Mary ascended the throne after her half-brother Edward VI (son of Jane Seymour) died from illness, aged 14. During Mary’s five year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in her attempt to reverse the English Reformation put in place during her father’s reign. This gave her the ‘Bloody Mary‘ title. After Mary’s death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, ending the rule of the House of Tudor and returning the Crown and country to the Church of England. (National Portrait Gallery, London).

Cecily Heron (nee More) (1507-1540) was the youngest of Thomas More’s three daughters. She married Giles Heron on 29 September 1525 in a double wedding ceremony with her sister Elizabeth who married William Dauncey. She was well educated and with her sisters, performed in court before Henry VIII. After her marriage her husband Giles (who had been a ward of her father Thomas More) fell out of favour with not only the More family but with the King and he was executed for treason in 1540. After this, much of Cecily’s property was confiscated and she is thought to have died the same year as her husband.

  • Hans Holbein died somewhere between 7 October and 29 November 1543 at the age of 45, possibly from the plague. The site of Holbein’s grave is unknown and may never have been marked; but his 16th Century portraiture-style art has become a visual record encapsulating the life at the court of the Tudor King.

Walder, John. Henry VIII: 100 Colour Illustrations. Octopus: London (1973)

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A Summer Morning | In the Sand Dune

Australian artist Max Middleton enjoyed a long and highly acclaimed career as a professional artist, exhibiting in 68 exhibitions over 66 years. Born in Melbourne in 1922, Middleton knew he wanted to be an artist from the age of 12. At 16 he started lessons in drawing at the National Gallery School, and practiced his oil painting technique on Sunday’s when his father drove him to the country to paint en plein air (French: meaning the practice of painting entire finished pictures out of doors).

Middleton studied privately with Harold Septimus Power from 1940, whom greatly influenced his early paintings with the use of broad brush strokes and patterns of light and shade. In 1950, Middleton travelled to Europe to see the major museums and trained from 1950-1953 at Heatherley’s School in London and in Florence at the Scala di Bellearti (School of Fine Art). In Europe, his key influences were JMW Turner and Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, both en plein air painters of the transformative effects of light.

From there on, Middleton painted in the flourishing art community of Cornwall as well as in Wales, Ireland, France and Spain. It was in regional Spain that he chose to paint the people of the area, and from thereon, the human figure began to feature in his paintings.

Middleton returned to Australia in 1953, excited to once again be painting landscape in the unique Australian light. From 1959 and for the most of his career, Middleton and his family lived in the Dandenong Ranges, outside of Melbourne, where he painted extensively in the Sherbrooke Forest.

  • By 1988, Middleton began painting nudes, which became his inspiration throughout the final years of his career.
  • Ill health forced him to retire from painting in 2010.
  • He died in 2013 died at the age of 90.

His works can be found at various Australian collections including:

Queensland Art Gallery, Bendigo Regional Art Gallery, Benalla Regional Art Gallery, and the Castlemaine Regional Art Gallery.

  • Discover more about Max Middleton at this website.

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Adolphe and Eve

Adolphe Leon Willette | Eve (1905)

Adolphe Leon Willette | Eve (1905)

French painter, illustrator, caricaturist, and lithographer Adolphe Léon Willette was born in Châlons-sur-Marne on 30 July, 1857.  He was also the architect of the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret.

Willette studied for four years at the École des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel. He has been labelled the modern “Watteau of the pencil”, (after French artist, Antoine Watteau 1684-1721) and an exponent of sentiment that moves emotions among the public.

  • Willette was a prolific contributor to the French illustrated press using various pseudonyms, such as “Cemoi”, “Pierrot”, “Louison”, “Bebe”, and “Nox”, but more often under his own name.

Willette illustrated Melandri’s Les Pierrots and Les Giboulles d’avril, Le Courrier français, and published his own Pauvre Pierrot and other works, in which he tells his stories in scenes in the manner of Busch.  He decorated several “brasseries artistiques” with wall-paintings, stained glass, and notably Le Chat noir and La Palette d’or. Willette  painted the highly imaginative ceiling for La Cigale music hall. His characteristically fantastic Parce Domine was shown in the Franco-British Exhibition in 1908. A remarkable collection of his works was exhibited in 1888. His V’almy is in the Luxembourg, Paris.

  • He died on 4 February 1926 at the age of 69.

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Hell and the Journey of the Magi

The Florence Baptistery, (Baptistery of Saint John or the Battistero di San Giovanni), is considered a minor basilica in Florence, Italy.  The octagonal building stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni, across from the Florence Cathedral and the Campanile di Giotto and is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style.

It was once believed that the Baptistery was originally a Roman temple dedicated to Mars, the tutelary god of the old Florence. Excavations in the 20th Century have shown that there was a 1st Century Roman wall running through the piazza and the Baptistery, which may have been built on the remains of a Roman guard tower on the corner of this wall, or possibly another Roman building including a 2nd Century house which was later restored. It is certain that an initial octagonal baptistery was erected here in the late 4th or early 5th Century. It was replaced or altered by another early Christian baptistery in the 6th Century. Its construction is attributed to Theodolinda, queen of the Lombards (570–628), to seal the conversion of her husband, King Authari.

  • The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures.
  • The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Michelangelo dubbed the east doors the Gates of Paradise.
  • The building contains the monumental tomb of Anti pope John XXIII, by Donatello.
  • The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptised here.

The Baptistery is crowned by a magnificent mosaic ceiling vault. It was created over the course of a century in several different phases. The oldest parts are the upper zone of the dome with the hierarchy of angels, the Last Judgment on the three western segments of the dome; and the mosaic above the rectangular chapel on the western side.

An inscription in the mosaic above the western rectangular chapel states the date of the beginning of the work and the name of the artist. According to this inscription, work on the mosaic began in 1225 by the Franciscan friar Jacobus, who was trained in Venice and strongly influenced by the Byzantine art of the early to mid-13th Century. Since the inscription also names Emperor Frederick II, the inscription and the completion of the first phase of mosaics must fall within the Ghibelline phase of Florentine rule between 1238 and 1250.

The Last Judgment, created by Jacobus and his workshop was the largest and most important spiritual image created in the Baptistery. It shows a gigantic majestic Christ and angels with the instruments of the passion at each side (formerly attributed to the painter Coppo di Marcovaldo), the rewards of the saved leaving their tomb in joy (at Christ’s right hand), and the punishments of the damned (at Christ’s left hand). This last part is particularly famous: evil doers are burnt by fire, roasted on spits, crushed with stones, bitten by snakes, gnawed and chewed by hideous beasts.

The other scenes on the lower zones of the five eastern sections of the dome depict different stories in horizontal tiers of mosaic: (starting at the top) stories from the Book of Genesis; stories of Joseph; Mary and the Christ and finally in the lower tier, stories of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the church. A total of sixty pictures originated in the last decade of the 13th Century. The key artists employed were Corso di Buono and Cimabue.

  • The Baptistery vault is considered the most important narrative cycle of Florentine art before Giotto.

Who would have thought it – Hell in Florence

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I’m Your Venus | I’m Your Fire | At Your Desire

The work: Venus and Anchises. Venus (Greek: Aphrodite), was the Roman goddess of beauty and love and considered as either sprung from the foam of the sea, or the daughter of Jupiter and Dione. Her husband was Vulcan but she had amours with other gods and demigods, including the shepherd Anchises, whom they had a son Aeneas. The Romans believed that they were descended from Aeneas, and therefore Venus was venerated as a guardian of the Roman people. Her chief festival is 1 April.

The Artist: English portrait painter and sculptor Sir William Blake Richmond was also the designer of stained glass and mosaic. He is best known for his portrait work and decorative mosaics in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Richmond was born on 29 November 1842 in Marylebone and was named after a close friend of his father, the poet William Blake. As a child, Richmond was tutored at home due to health problems. In 1858, at the age of 14, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art where he studied drawing and painting for three years. He also spent time at John Ruskin’s house, where he was given private art lessons.

In 1859, Richmond painted his first picture and sold it for £20, spending the money to tour Italy for six weeks with a tutor. This tour had a major impact on his artistic development and career. By 1865, Richmond returned to Italy, where he lived in Rome, studying art for four years. During the 1880s, he travelled often to Italy, Greece, Spain and Egypt where he would spend a few months each year exploring new areas, absorbing the history and mythology of the region, and making numerous drawings and sketches.

Richmond became the Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford (1878-1883), succeeding his friend and mentor Ruskin. In 1888, he resumed his relationship with the Royal Academy and was elected an Associate Member (ARA), and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1895. Richmond served as Professor of Painting at the Academy from (1895-1899 and 1909-1911), and continued to exhibit until 1916. He was elected Senior RA at the Academy in 1920.

  • Richmond was an early advocate for clean air in London. He founded the Coal Smoke Abatement Society (CSAS) in 1898 and was a member of CSAS for a number of years. The CSAS, is the oldest non-government environmental organization in the UK which later become Environmental Protection UK.
  • Richmond wrote magazine articles and gave public lectures on the danger of coal smoke and wrote to the London Times in 1898 requesting for action, stating that “the darkness was comparable to a total eclipse of the sun“.

Richmond died at his home, Beavor Lodge, in Hammersmith on 11 February, 1921.

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Wood, Christopher.  Dictionary of Victorian Painters. Baron Publishing: Woodbridge, (1971)
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Rat art has spread the plague everywhere

French street artist Blek le Rat, (Xavier Prou) was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris in 1951. Blek was one of the first street artists in Paris, and the originator of stencil graffiti art. He began his artwork in 1981, painting stencils of rats on the street walls of Paris, describing the rat as “the only free animal in the city“, and one which “spreads the plague everywhere, just like street art“.

Blek’s name originates from a childhood cartoon “Blek le Roc“, using “rat” as an anagram for “art“. Initially influenced by the early graffiti art of New York City after a visit in 1971, Blek chose a style which he felt better suited Paris, due to the differing architecture of the two cities. He also stated the influence of New York’s Richard Hamilton, who painted large-scale human figures in the 1980s. Blek is credited with being the inventor of the life-sized stencil, as well as the first to transform  the stencil from basic lettering into pictorial art.

Blek’s identity was revealed to French authorities in 1991 when he was arrested while stenciling a replica of Caravaggio’s Madonna and Child. From that point on, he has worked mainly with pre-stenciled posters, citing the speedier application of the medium to walls, as well as lessened punishment should he be caught in the act.

He has had a great influence on today’s street art movement, with the main motivation of his work being social consciousness and the desire to bring art to the people. Many of his pieces are pictorials of solitary individuals in opposition to larger, oppressive groups. He has also been noted for his series of images representing the homeless, which depicts them standing, sitting or laying on sidewalks, in an attempt to bring attention to what he views as a global problem.

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What’s green and pink and hangs on the wall?

[Above image: Entitled 3: We all have a dream of a place we belong. (2013) synthetic polymer paint, marble dust and gold leaf on canvas and wood. Yvonne Pettengell Bequest,  National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)].

Australian artist Tomislav Nikolic was born in 1970 in Melbourne, Victoria. Nikolic, who still lives in Melbourne, is known for luminous abstract paintings built up from many layers of pigment mixed with marble dust. Colour is a primary concern for him. Nikolic’s aim is not to control or ‘illustrate’, but instead allow each painting to express a ‘chromatic potential’.

  • The work featured above, is the third in a group of seven paintings that explore the Seven Rays; a concept that has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy and appeared in religious iconography throughout centuries before being popularized by theosophists.
  • It references the illusion of ‘Glamour’ – as outlined in the book Glamour: A World Problem by the 20th Century theosophist Alice Bailey (1880 – 1949).

Nikolic has exhibited regularly in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland since 1996. Recent solo exhibitions include Edict, Greenwood Street Projects, Melbourne, 2009; Cardinal Mutable Fixed, Yuill/ Crowley, Sydney, 2010; Eidos, Yuill/Crowley, 2011; In Arcadia, Jensen Gallery, Sydney, 2012; and 7, Fox/Jensen, Auckland, 2012. Nikolic’s works have been included in group exhibitions including Artists of the Gallery, Yuill/Crowley, 2010; Points of Orientation, Jensen Gallery, 2012; and A Loose Harness for Time, Greenwood Street Projects, 2012.

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Beth Among the Marigolds


Australian artist Reginald Ward Sturgess was born on 18 June 1892, in the Melbourne suburb of Newport. Sturgess was the youngest child, and the only one born in Australia after the family migrated from Bath in England. Sturgess was educated at Williamstown South State School, before leaving school at the age of  12. In 1905, he enrolled in the art school at the National Gallery of Victoria, with the help of novelist and Williamstown local Ada Cambridge, who had noticed his artistic talents. There, Sturgess studied drawing under Frederick McCubbin in the School of Design, and from 1909, painting under Lindsay Hall. Sturgess won several prizes while at the Gallery, including First Prize for a drawing of a head from life in 1909; Second Prize for a painting of still life in 1910, and First Prize for landscape painting in 1911.

Sturgess spent much time at student camps at Mount Macedon and Malmsbury, in country Victoria, an area he would later visit frequently to paint. The female students would usually stay with the family of Meta Townsend, a Malmsbury local who was also a student at the Gallery from 1909 to 1914, while the male students would camp at the disused Coliban Flour Mill, the oldest mill in the district.

Sturgess supported his art by selling painted decorative lampshades and working in his father’s seed business in Williamstown, which he continued to manage following his father’s death in 1916. On 30 July 1917, Sturgess married Meta Townsend at the Anglican Church in Malmsbury. They had one daughter Elizabeth (“Beth”), born in 1919.

  • Sturgess joined the Victorian Artists’ Society in 1921. Nine of his paintings were included in the Society’s May exhibition, and another six in the September exhibition, with little buyer interest, despite offering them at relatively low prices.
  • However, he had more success from a joint exhibition with Granville Dunstan at the Athenaeum, Melbourne, in July 1922 and subsequent solo exhibitions in 1923 and 1924, also at the Athenaeum, where collectors and critics were impressed with his poetic approach, and his convincing depiction of atmospheric effects.

Sturgess was injured in a car accident in 1926, breaking his jaw, and although he recovered, his health was affected. He closed the seed business in 1926 to concentrate entirely on his painting, but by 1930 his fading eyesight forced him to retire. Sturgess eventually became ill and died at the age of 40, on 2 July, 1932 at his Williamstown home. Sturgess was buried in the Williamstown Cemetery, survived by Meta and Beth.

[Both images are from the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum collection:

  • Among the Marigolds (1923)  watercolour 22.5cm x 29cm depicts the artist’s daughter “Beth” (later Beth Sinclair – first director of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum;
  • The Schooner (1930) watercolour 32cm x 40cm (Gift of Beth Sinclair)]

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Reko Rennie’s reverent Regalia

Reko Rennie | Regalia

Reko Rennie | Regalia

Interdisciplinary artist Reko Rennie is a Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi man, born in Melbourne, Australia in 1974 and grew up in Melbourne’s western suburb of Footscray. As a teenager growing up in the mid 1980s, Rennie discovered hip-hop and break dancing. It was around this time that he stole a copy of the book Subway Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant from the local Footscray library.  This book became his inspiration to start writing and doing graffiti; expressing himself through spray paint and producing original art on the streets of Melbourne.

In the late 1990s Rennie had, in his words been, in ‘a little bit of trouble’ and needed a break. He began looking at his own identity and family history. It was through his family connection to the Kamilaroi people of New South Wales, that he was able to look at traditional designs related to his family and blend these designs with his urban upbringing and his creative expression in art.

Rennie knew that he could always draw and paint as a kid, but found it very boring painting landscapes. He is proud that he never went to art school. Instead, Rennie studied journalism and in 2009, quit his full-time position with The Age newspaper and became a full time artist.

Rennie’s art has evolved from spray painting, stencils, screen prints, bronze, neon and back again. His work is often characterised by vibrant colours, line work and intricate stencil imagery. Drawing inspiration from his Aboriginal heritage, he recreates traditional images in a contemporary context. His artistic influencers include the works of Howard Arkley, Andy Warhol and pop art, as well as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

[Featured above: Regalia (2013) neon, transparent synthetic polymer resin]. It comprises: three hand drawn symbols: the crown, the diamond and the aboriginal flag presented as an emblematic statement about the original royalty of Australia.

  • The crown symbol pays homage to Rennie’s graffiti roots and also pays due respect to Jean-Michel Basquiat, but most importantly symbolises sovereign status.
  • The diamond symbol is emblematic of his connection to the Kamilaroi/Gamilaroi people. This symbol is similar to a family crest; it is a part of him.
  • The hand-drawn Aboriginal flag in the form of a graffiti tag, pays respect to all Aboriginal people from environments both urban and remote and anywhere in between.

In an article for ArtLink (March 2014) Rennie explains: “I’m very driven to make art, it’s my passion and as I have a lot to say and create, I’ve always been very determined. When someone says I can’t do something, then that just fuels my desire to create even more”… “As a teenager, I was a little disruptive in class and this one particular time always comes back to me, now that I’m making a living as an artist. It was in high school, around 1991 and an art teacher called my artwork “shit” in front of my class. It is something I’ve never forgotten … I wonder what he’s doing now?“… “These days the best feedback is always from my daughter – she will let me know if the work is good or bad!”

  • Discover more about Reko Rennie through Artlink’s interview article.

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Pan fine Art is Sure Fine Art

Chalk artists Pan fine Art is an artistic partnership between Wayne McMillan and Mark “Markos” Gage. They have been working together since 2006. Unlike most artists they do not survive on sales of work, but produce art on the street for donations.

The duo create public art inspired by mythology and personal spirituality. Gage identifies as an Hellenic polytheist, Dionysian artist, and Bacchic Orphic. Today Gage and his partner McMillan are a fixed presence in Melbourne, creating pavement art depictions of mythological stories, Renaissance paintings and pagan spirituality around Melbourne’s CBD, or Southbank promenade along the riverfront. They have also painted in other cities along the east coast of Australia.

Gage grew up in Frankston and was reared by his mother and grandmother. His first serious attempts at art came at around the age of 13. His sister was interested in New Age beliefs and practices; and the siblings attended drawing classes in “intuitive drawing;” an art style that is popular at New Age festivals. This style allows for a person’s subconscious or spirit to guide or control the art, which is usually planned out in abstract shapes then rendered over with pastels, eventually drawing animals or people. This was Gage’s introduction to spiritual art and pastel drawing.

  • This lead to Gage studying art at the Frankston College of TAFE. It was here that he met his life partner Wayne McMillan.
  • Coming from similar broken home backgrounds, McMillan (who is part Nauruan) is the clown and the more outspoken of the two; and the polar opposite of Gage.
  • At the age of 25, Gage and McMillan decided to become ascetic wanderers, with a desire to travel and live freely.  They discarded all of their possessions and walked away from their apartment with nothing but their backpacks with some clothes. It was during this period that Gage became a devotee of Dionysus.

In artistic terms, Pan fine Art have a preference for Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite and Botticelli-styles of art. Gage concurs that there is no greater artist than Michelangelo. The entire Sistine Chapel, David, The Slaves, Moses, Christ Carrying the Cross, The Pieta and Bacchus being his favourite artworks.

Pan fine Art has been producing street art since 2008. Over the years they have completed hundreds of drawings of various subjects and themes including various levels of nudity. As a consequence they have found to have offended people by drawing fully clothed figures, characters dressed in fur clothing, images of women, images of men, images of children, images of nudes. However, they both agree that people will find anything to be offended by.  – C’est la vie!

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The Archer and the Shamisen Player | Waiting for the Rickshaw

Painter and etcher Mortimer Menpes was born in Port Adelaide, South Australia in 1855. Menpes studied art at the School of Design, Adelaide. He went to London at the age of 19 and became a pupil and close friend of artist James McNeill Whistler, who was a central figure of the English Aesthetic Movement, which flourished in late Victorian and Edwardian eras. Menpes died in London in 1938.

Menpes became interested in Japanese art and design and made two extensive trips to Japan; his second visit in 1897, when he painted numerous portraits of children, geisha’s and archers in ceremonial garments. Menpes’ application of gouache and watercolour is influenced by Japanese techniques.

  • An inveterate traveller he held more one-man exhibitions in London than any other painter of his day.

Back in March 2015, there was an exhibition of Menpes’ work  “An Artist’s Utopia: Mortimer Menpes in Japan” at the Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne.  The exhibition included works lent from the Art Gallery of South Australia and private collections.

  • The Archer (c 1897) watercolour and gouache. The frame was made according to Menpes’ specifications and features a Japanese chrysanthemum motif in the corners. Now part of the National Gallery of Victoria- Australia collection.
  • The Shamisen Player (details) oil on board 11x15cm and Waiting for the Rickshaw.

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Source: McCulloch, Alan. Encyclopedia of Australian Art. Hutchinson: Richmond, 1977.
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Some of Reka’s Eureka Moments

Self-taught Australian born street artist, Reka (James Reka, born 1983) is a young contemporary  artist now based in Berlin, Germany. Reka’s street art origins began in the alleyways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs where he spent over a decade refining his now-distinctive art.

Reka’s art includes murals, graphics, photography and working with found objects, often sourced from walking the train lines at night or exploring abandoned warehouses. His work spans the laneways of three continents and contains influences from pop culture, cartoons and illustration, with hints of pop art in logo and symbol design, learned during his studies for Bachelor of Arts  (Visual Communication & Design) RMIT University, Melbourne (2002-2006).

  • This is Reka’s art: a paradox between sharp design and graffiti, held together with a fuse of passion and spray paint.

Reka has held solo shows in Melbourne, London, San Francisco, and in Denmark; and exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol; as well as pieces appearing in New York, Denver, Munich and Cologne.

  • On the streets, his characters adorn the walls of cities from Milan, Paris, Berlin, Brooklyn, Montreal and in Japan.

Reka’s works have been acquisitioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, for their permanent collection, cementing his place as one of Australia’s most respected contemporary street artists.

  • Discover more about Reka at his Website, Insta Account or email reka@rekaone.com

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The Lesson by Sant is Sure to Enchant

James Sant | The Lesson[James Sant (1820-1916) The Lesson oil on canvas 89 cm Royal Academy]

British portrait painter and Royal Academy member James Sant (1820–1916) was born in Croydon, Surrey. His main tutors were John Varley and Augustus Wall Callcott.

Sant was elected to the Royal Academy in 1870 at the age of 50, and in 1872 he was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary (official portraitist) to Queen Victoria and the Royal Family. Sant resigned from the Academy in 1914 at the age of 94, two years before his death, to “make room for younger men.

  • During his career, Sant produced an astonishing 250 canvases for exhibition at the Academy and his work can be found at the Tate Gallery, London.

His brother George Sant (1821–1877) was a landscape painter; and they were among the notable artist acquaintances of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). In fact, James Sant’s son Jemmy was the subject of one of Dodgson’s famous portrait photographs.

  • James Sant died at the age of 96 in 1916.

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Posted in Art, Artists A-Z, Gallery Art, OilPainting, Paintings, Watercolours | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment