Masked Intruder c.1974 signed 'Tucker' lower right synthetic polymer paint on composition board 122.0 x 91.4cm (48 1/16 x 36in).
PROVENANCE Albert and Barbara Tucker, Melbourne Company collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED The Jack Manton Prize 1987, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 12 February - 29 March 1987, no. 8
During the mid 1950s whilst living in Italy, Albert Tucker began to explore the ideas and imagery of the Australian landscape and 'mythology'. Nostalgia was infused in his life and work as an expatriate artist in Rome - the harsh and lyrically seductive environment of his homeland slowly replaced his earlier religious imagery. Tucker confirms this when he says, 'I had been away for so long I was nostalgic for Australia. I was thinking in terms of Australian earth and rotting gum trees. A number of Antipodean heads were made at this time.' Tucker also embraced such subjects as convicts and the stories of Ned Kelly and Burke and Wills, in his own, distinct manner of painting and darkness of vision. He distorted the legends of the Australian bush and depicted the barrenness and severity of the outback through these works. In contrast to brighter interpretations of these subjects by his contemporaries such as Sidney Nolan, Tucker's paintings are, as Gavin Fry attests, 'dark and sombre and full of angst and menace.'
Tucker continued for twenty years to portray images of explorers, armoured bushrangers, gamblers and other major subjects including masked intruders and fauns. Most distinct and consistent in these works is Tucker's angular construction of his character's profiles their pointed chins and noses jut out into the picture plane, while the surface of their skin is often greatly creviced, not unlike the features of a cratered, lunar landscape. These solemn survivors of such harsh environs were a further step towards Tucker's new Australian iconography.
Masked Intruder, c. 1974, is a clear example of the artist's unique treatment of his subjects. This intruder echoes the physical appearance of Tucker's 'Antipodean heads' of the late 1950s, and shares the similarity of lines apparent in the Armoured Bushranger of 1958. Here, the dominance of Tucker's palette is straightforward - burnt orange of the desert sand and gold associated with the intense Australian sun form a backdrop for this dark and mysterious individual. A mask, perhaps inspired by the Ned Kelly stories, covers both the intruder's mouth and eyes. Prominent veins reflecting tinges of green, orange and pink, are interconnected over the face, like features on a road map.
In the portrayal of this strong, mythical character, Tucker not only re-creates the intrigue of the infamous Australian bushranger and explorer narratives, but affirms his unique interpretation of the country's cultural symbolism.
1 Minchin, J., & Mollison, J. (1990) Albert Tucker: a Retrospective, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, p 13. 2 Fry, Gavin. (2005) Albert Tucker. Sydney: The Beagle Press, p 135.