Important Australian Art / Charles Blackman (1928-2018) Children in the Woods, c.1980
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Charles Blackman (1928-2018)
signed lower left: 'Blackman'
oil on canvas on board
122.0 x 183.0cm (48 1/16 x 72 1/16in).
Collection of the artist
Ivanyi Fine Art, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Sydney, 24 September 2008, lot 41, as Hide and Seek
Private collection, Melbourne
Blackman emerged during the fifties as an artist whose pictures conveyed a rare and extraordinary degree of poetic reality. In the years following Blackman's triumphant Alice series, he was awarded the Helena Rubenstein travelling scholarship in 1960 and moved his young family to London. At the time, Australian contemporary art was on the rise on an international scale thanks to the likes of Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley. Blackman's overlapping social circles saw him mixing with the English aristocracy as well as modern British artists such as Keith Vaughan and Michael Ayrton, introducing him to the world stage of contemporary art. This fresh, heightened environment encouraged a more sophisticated approach to his work, allowing his art to take on a new direction. Elegant passages of abstraction crept into his oeuvre and compositions were reduced to flat planes of colour, a method he used in his figurative subjects later in life.
The dominant themes in Blackman's work are the world of literature, the lost domain of childhood, and women. He is entirely preoccupied by these subjects: 'When he paints the games of children, he only occasionally shows us the rough and tumble of childhood. His images speak of the watching and growing perceptions, the emotions and dreams of childhood. They sometimes come close to the 'lost domain' quality that he expresses in his garden paintings... however, while he is a painter with an impeccable sense of lyricism, he also has a considerable gift of irony – and this can range from the gentle to the jack-knife, as in his Schoolgirl paintings. His children are not only young people with the attributes of childhood, but they are victims of society and corruption, and he reveals this both seriously and mockingly.'1
The present work, Children in the Woods, seeks to reprise Blackman's childhood memories, imbued with his characteristic sense of mystique. Flashes of vibrant, coloured uniforms dance across the surface as the school kids playfully duck and weave between the darkened trunks of the trees. Their emotions are laid bare as an incised quintet of faces is embedded into the impastoed paint - a technique Blackman commonly employed during the early sixties.
1. Nadine Amadio, Charles Blackman: The Lost Domains, A.H. &. A.W. Reed, Sydney, 1980, p. 70