Australian Beach Pattern c.1940 oil on wax on cardboard 73.0 x 102.5cm (28 3/4 x 40 3/8in).
PROVENANCE Private collection, Europe Private collection, Australia Fine Australian and European Paintings, Sotheby's, Sydney, 16 August 1999, lot 39 (illus. cover) Private collection, Sydney
LITERATURE Terry Ingram, 'Price aurge at Sydney art sale', Australian Financial Review, 17 August 1999, p. 3 (illus.) Ben Holgate, '$395,000 for Boyd painting' The Australian, 17 August 1999, p. 5 Peter Cochrane, 'Art sale soars with angels', Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 17 August 1999, p. 3
RELATED WORK Charles Meere (1890-1961), Australian Beach Pattern 1940, oil on canvas, 91.5 x 122.0cm, In the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Born in England in 1890, Charles Meere trained at the Royal College of the Arts as a designer and muralist before moving to Australia in 1930 looking for work as a commercial artist. He shortly set up his own business whilst juggling part time teaching at the East Sydney Technical College alongside other modernist painters including Herbert Badham, Douglas Dundas and E.A. Harvey.
By 1938 Meere had established himself and was granted the job of designing the promotional poster for the British Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games, which were to be held in Sydney. That same year he won the Sulman prize with Atalanta's eclipse (now in the collection of the S.H Ervin Gallery, Sydney). Consequently Meere had brought on three apprentices to assist, one being Freda Robertshaw a graduate in commercial illustration from the National Art School. Robertshaw learnt figure painting by working alongside Meere on her own version of Australian Beach Pattern (now in the Reg Grundy AC, OBE and Joy Chambers Grundy Collection)
"After the sesquicentenary celebrations climaxed in January 1938, Charles Meere began work on Australian Beach Pattern (in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) a major work in the iconography of the Australian Beach and now one of the most popular paintings in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. No other beach painting expresses the spirit of Australia before the Second World War as succinctly as this painting, with its combination of 'national types' and neo-classical composition.
Never has the Australian beach been portrayed with such vigour and energy. Far from the leisure and relaxation we expect in the depiction of our beach, this strenuos composition with it heroic figures is more suggestive of a renaissance battle scene." 1
Robertshaw recalled that 'Charles never went to the beach. We made up most of the figures, occasionally using one of Charles's employees as a model for the hands and feet, but never the complete figure. They were then arranged to fill in a composition until a small sketch was realised and colour indicated. It was then squared up and enlarged to the size of the painting. The outline was overlaid, pricked and then dusted with chalk. He started with a sepia base to fix the outline and then blocked in the larger areas, working slowly for about a year to complete the painting.'2
The present Australian Beach Pattern c.1940, rediscovered in Europe in the 1990's is slightly smaller than the version in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
1 Linda Slutzkin, 'Spartans in SSpeedos', in Daniel Thomas (ed.), Creating Australia: 200 years of art 1788-1988, International Cultural Corporation of Australia/ Art Gallery Board of South Australia, Adelaide, 1988, p.176-177. 2 Linda Slutzkin, Charles Meere 1890 1961, introductory catalogue essay, S.H. Irvin Gallery, Sydney, 1987, pp. 67, from an interview with Freda Robertshaw, 6 September, 1987.