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Robert Smith

(b Melbourne, Oct 4, 1913; d Melbourne, July 5, 1986).

Australian painter, printmaker, draughtsman, sculptor, cartoonist and illustrator. Largely self-taught, he began printmaking in 1931 and worked as a caricaturist, cartoonist and illustrator for the weekly and left-wing press, his outlook influenced by experience on the dole and political struggle during the Depression. In 1941 he began oil painting, his first pictures being mainly a celebration of Australian working-class tenacity during the 1930s: for example At the Start of the March (1944; Sydney, A.G. NSW). A founder-member of the Contemporary Art Society in 1938, he initiated its 1942 anti-Fascist exhibition and helped organize an Artists’ Unity Congress, receiving awards for his paintings of miners in the ensuing Australia at War exhibition in 1945. From 1939 to 1940 he was in New Zealand and from 1949 to 1952 in Europe, mostly London. Later he made frequent trips to Britain and France, as well as visiting the USSR and Mexico.

Counihan’s imaginative and creative versatility enabled him to produce extended pictorial metaphors for inherent contemporary crises, embodying potent artistic responses to specific conditions of oppression and discrimination, the nuclear threat and attendant social alienation. From the late 1960s he created images in numerous interrelated series challenging Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, for example ...

Article

Christine Clark

(b London, 1767; d Hobart, Tasmania, July 11, 1851).

English painter, printmaker and sculptor, active in Australia. In London he exhibited six portraits at the Royal Academy (1817–23) and three genre paintings at the British Institution and engraved two colour plates for George Morland, before moving to Hobart, Tasmania, in 1832. At the Hobart Mechanics’ Institute in 1833 he delivered the first lecture in Australia on the subject of painting. In 1849 he contributed the paper ‘The School of Athens as it Assimilates with the Mechanics Institution’ to a series of seven lectures (later published) delivered at the Institute. Duterrau painted landscapes and portraits but is best known for his works depicting the Aborigines of Tasmania and their traditional way of life. He was very interested in the events that led to the exclusion of the Aborigines from Tasmania, and in a series of works begun in 1834 but not executed until the early 1840s he showed George Augustus Robinson under commission from the Governor of Tasmania to restore peace with them. ...

Article

Robert Leonard

(b Wellington, NZ, Nov 30, 1931).

New Zealand sculptor and printmaker. She was one of the most technically and stylistically diverse of the feminist artists to emerge in New Zealand in the 1970s. In such works as her screenprinted Playground series (1975; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa) she was concerned to show how women’s identities have been constructed by cultural forces. In exploring how attitudes to women are rooted historically, culturally and psychologically, she drew her imagery from throughout history and from various cultures. In the 1980s much of her work used hair as a medium because of its association with femininity and sexuality. For instance, her Guardian Gates (1982; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa) is a cycle of seven metal cyclone gates dressed with hair; and in a temporary installation called Stain (1984) a carpet woven from hair and resembling dried trickles of blood was placed on the steps of a cathedral in Dunedin to protest against the Church’s suppression of women....

Article

Wally Caruana

(b Melbourne, Dec 4, 1948; d 1996).

Australian Aboriginal painter, sculptor and printmaker. A member of the Wiradjuri people, he was self-taught, and his work, like that of many other Aboriginal artists from urban backgrounds, was ignored by the established art world until the 1980s. He went beyond the traditions of Aboriginal art, yet his work is informed by classical Aboriginal artistic concepts. His concern with depicting Australian life and history from an Aboriginal perspective is evidenced in his first major paintings, the Musquito series (1984; Melbourne, Aborigines Advancement League), which represents an Aboriginal guerrilla fighter in the early colonial era. The paintings are heroic in scope and scale and address official histories, which neglect Aboriginal resistance to colonization. By 1987 Onus had developed close associations with traditional artists, who influenced his work. Ensuing paintings juxtaposed images from European and Aboriginal worlds, reflecting the dilemmas and aspirations of Aboriginal people living in a predominantly non-Aboriginal society. Major works from this period include ...

Article

Robert Smith

(Leslie)

(b Melbourne, Nov 23, 1929).

Australian cartoonist, printmaker, writer, illustrator, film maker and sculptor. After employment as an illustrator in Melbourne (1949–52), he worked in London as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist (1954–60). On the return journey to Australia he formed a lasting interest in South-east Asia, publishing the resulting perceptive and deceptively simple drawings with commentary in the first of his many illustrated books. He worked as a freelance artist in Melbourne until his appointment as resident cartoonist for the Sydney Daily Mirror in 1963 and the newly established national daily, The Australian, from 1964 to 1973. He quickly achieved popularity and repute, especially for his penetrating visual comments on involvement by Australia and the USA in the Vietnam War. He had little formal training in art and developed for himself a free-ranging personal style, which was widely emulated.

From 1970 Petty made or scripted numerous films, often combining actuality with animation and incorporating his own caricatural kinetic sculptures. After some earlier pioneering sculptural works, he created the first of what he called his ‘machine sculptures’, the ...

Article

Peter Sutton

(b nr Japingka, Gt Sandy Desert, W. Australia, c. 1940).

Australian Aboriginal painter, printmaker and sculptor.He lived a nomadic hunting and gathering life in the Great Sandy Desert as a boy, until his family, whose native language was Walmatjarri, settled at Cherrabun cattle station near Fitzroy Crossing. He became a stockman and until his forties spent most of his working life in the farming industry. While serving a sentence for murder in Fremantle Prison in 1980, he began to acquire technical skills in Western media such as acrylic paint and screenprinting. The graphic power of his screenprints, for example Rurungurrwarnti, Snake Men (1985; Canberra, N.G.) and Larripuka (1986; Perth, W. Australia, Christensen Fund), and linocuts quickly made his name widely known, and his reputation rose even higher when his paintings, for example Jumirtilangu Parija Purrku II (1987; Robert Holmes à Court priv. col., see Caruana, 1993, pl. 131), with their adventurous use of bright colours and their often dense patterning, attracted public attention during the 1980s, when he was based at Kurlku. His subjects are predominantly traditional Aboriginal ones: either remembered events and routines of his bush boyhood or mythological themes. In both cases his work is intimately focused on the Great Sandy Desert, its physical contents and textures, its history and its cultural and spiritual meaning for Aborigines. Stylistically his work can be related back to ancient sacred designs, which in this region make distinctive use of the interlocking key design. Among his regional contemporaries his work most closely resembles that of Peter Skipper and Jarinyanu David Downs (...

Article

Robert Smith

(b Sydney, April 7, 1939; d Thirroul, nr Wollongong, June 15, 1992).

Australian painter, sculptor and printmaker . He was already preoccupied with art while at Scots School in Bathurst, for which he painted several murals c. 1955–6 on sporting themes; he later studied intermittently at the Julian Ashton School in Sydney (1957–9). He was awarded the Italian Travelling Scholarship in 1959 and spent some time in Italy before arriving in London in mid-1961, where he achieved fame when the exhibition Recent Australian Art, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, included some of his latest works. His earlier work had shown the effects of sources such as Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier and William Dobell, but by this time he was painting in a boldly sensuous style of his own, emphasizing formal qualities and replete with erotic allusion. These elements were subsequently developed in his art, though becoming increasingly figurative, deployed to symbolize human estrangement and aspects of alternative lifestyle, while owing something to the work of Francis Bacon and the French ...