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2 February 2009

Albert Tucker

HENDRIK KOLENBERG: Albert Tucker was one of Australia's most important Expressionist painters of the post-war period. He and his friends Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd formed a group of painters who began to make images, very, very powerful images of Australia in the post-war period. They'd experienced the war and the Depression and so those images had a particular power and poignancy that had never been seen before.

Melbourne was really the key to these painters. Each of them were from Melbourne. In Albert Tucker's case one of his most important works, and those with which he made his name, were those about the war.

He made a series of pictures called The Images of Modern Evil and they were about women who plied their trade if you like, in the streets of Melbourne.

ALBERT TUCKER: There wasn't permissiveness but there were events, so I say the Blackout is a wonderful cover for all sorts of things and, of course, anything that any far out, wild, hippy type person was doing now, the whole lot had performed full force up and down the main streets and back alleys of Melbourne at this time.

And so we had an atmosphere of.. it was a curiously demonic atmosphere I think. At least this is how I responded to it and in a way this crescent form seemed to sum up the demonology of the period.

HENDRIK KOLENBERG: He remained true to his strong expressive tenets but his great passion in fact was to travel overseas. He had a great ambition to see himself within a world context - not within a parochial or an Australian one and so in about 1947 he actually went overseas.

And unlike a lot of Australian artists he didn't really aim to live in England but he aimed to be in Europe and so his base for a long time was Paris and I suppose the divergency of his style might come from that. Probably the influence of Picasso became very powerful on him and also other painters that were really important in Europe at that time.

This exhibition came about largely in an unusual way but a very interesting way. The artist's widow, Barbara Tucker, contacted us as she has a few other galleries in Australia and even overseas, if we were interested in receiving some gifts from her of her late husband's work. And we were very keen because although we've got some important Tuckers here we don't have a large collection of Albert Tucker's work.

We made a selection of eight paintings, a large number of paintings, and 83 drawings, a very large number of drawings, and that in one fell swoop, so called, has given us a very strong, cohesive and wide ranging, varied collection of works and we thought we should put these immediately on show.

They're in fact a promised gift. The gift hasn't quite happened yet but they're going to remain here.

What's interesting is it gave us an insight into areas of his work that probably a lot of people don't know. One, that he's probably not as well known as he deserves to be as being a draftsman. He makes the most wonderful drawings and always has. There's a beautiful drawing of his father before he really became an Expressionist if you like, and of their pet family dog at the time.

We've also got early drawings of himself, self-portraits are particularly fine, but really expressive, very powerful, so from the very earliest works in the 1940s he'd found his way but like it often is with drawings an artist often finds his way in the drawings first. The paintings tend to follow a little later. It's because that's the way they think.

The other thing that's interesting about this group of works that we've received from Barbara Tucker is that it fills out our paintings collection very, very well. We have a very fine painting called, An Apocalyptic Horse. It now has some wonderful companions that surround it, really about the Australian bush because Tucker began paint the Australian bush. But as an aside we've also got the drawing for this little painting.

So this is the way that this collection works and we thought that the public should see this as soon as possible.

So it's not a survey or a retrospective of Albert Tucker's work but it gives you a very clear idea of what he was as an artist, how important he was, how wide ranging his work was and why people get excited by his work. Once you walk past them they sort of seem to grip you and you stay with them.