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Charles Blackman

Charles Blackman

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Charles Blackman is one of the best known Australian artists still living today, especially for the famous Schoolgirl and Alice in Wonderland series of the 1950s. He was a member of the Antipodeans, a group of Melbourne painters that also included Arthur Boyd
Arthur Boyd
Arthur Merric Bloomfield Boyd, AC, OBE was one of the leading Australian painters of the late 20th Century. A member of the prominent Boyd artistic dynasty in Australia, his relatives included painters, sculptors, architects or other arts professionals. His sister Mary Boyd married John Perceval,...

, David Boyd
David Boyd (artist)
David Fielding Gough Boyd, OAM was an Australian artist, and a member of the Boyd artistic dynasty.-Boyd family artistic dynasty:...

, John Brack
John Brack
John Brack was an Australian painter, and a member of the Antipodeans group.-Life:...

, Robert Dickerson
Robert Dickerson
Robert Dickerson is an Australian figurative painter and former member of the Antipodeans group of artists. Dickerson is one of Australia's most recognised figurative artists and one of a generation of influential artists who include Ray Crooke, Charles Blackman, Laurence Hope, Margaret Olley and...

, John Perceval
John Perceval
John de Burgh Perceval AO was a well-known Australian artist. Perceval was the last surviving member of a group known as the Angry Penguins who redefined Australian art in the 1940s...

 and Clifton Pugh
Clifton Pugh
Clifton Ernest Pugh AO, was an Australian artist and three-time winner of Australia's Archibald Prize. He was strongly influenced by German Expressionism, and was known for his landscapes and portraiture...

.

Early life and initial success


Blackman, born 12 August 1928 in Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, left school at 13 and worked as an illustrator with the Sydney Sun newspaper while attending night classes at East Sydney Technical College (1943–46). He was later awarded an honorary doctorate. He came to notice following his move to Melbourne
Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 in the mid-1940s, where he became friends with Joy Hester
Joy Hester
Joy St Clair Hester was an Australian artist who played an important, though sometimes underrated, role in the development of Australian modernism, though her works could also be considered Abstract Expressionism....

, John Perceval and Laurence Hope
Laurence Hope (artist)
Laurence Hope is an Australian artist from Sydney who is best known for his Lover, Dreamers and Isolates paintings.-Early years:...

 as well as gaining the support of critic and art patron John Reed
John Reed (art patron)
John Reed was an Australian art editor and patron, notable for supporting and collecting of Australian art and culture with his wife Sunday Reed....

. His work met critical acclaim through his early Schoolgirl and Alice series, the latter Blackman's conception of Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll , was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems "The Hunting of the...

's most famous character. For some time while painting the Alice series, Blackman worked as a cook at a cafe run by art dealer, George Mora and his wife, fellow artist Mirka Mora
Mirka Mora
Mirka Mora is a prominent French-born Australian Visual artist who has contributed significantly to the development of Contemporary Art in Australia. Her mediums include painting, sculpture and mosaics.- Early life :...

. Blackman married the poet Barbara Patterson in 1951.

In 1959 he was a signatory to the Antipodean Manifesto
Antipodeans Group
-History:The Antipodeans group consisted of seven modern painters and the art historian Bernard Smith, who compiled The Antipodean Manifesto, a declaration fashioned from the artists' comments as a catalogue essay to accompany their exhibit....

, a statement protesting the dominance of abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris...

. The manifesto's adherents have been dubbed the Antipodeans Group. His work is associated with dreamlike images tinged with mystery and foreboding. In 1960 he lived in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 after winning the Helena Rubenstein Scholarship, settling in Sydney upon his return six years later. In 1970 he moved to Paris, when awarded the atelier studio in the Cité des Artes. He lived there for a year at the same time as John Coburn, and subsequently returned often, as Paris was an eternal source of inspiration.

His strong friendships with fellow artists led to field trips, sessions with models, cultural interchanges with poets, writers, musicians and worked with the ballet, doing set designs, i.e. Daisy Bates. After 27 years of marriage, Patterson divorced Blackman in 1978 and he married the young artist Genevieve de Courvreur. He married a third wife, Victoria Bower in 1989, who he also later divorced. He has six children, Auguste, Christabel, Barnaby, Beatrice
Bertie Blackman
Bertie Blackman is an Independent Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist. She rose to fame with her debut album in 2004, entitled 'Headway' which came after years of prolific performances around Sydney's Inner city venues, where she developed a dedicated following.-Early life and...

, Felix and Axiom. He has won many prizes and distinctions, culminating in a major retrospective in 1993 and an OBE for services to Australian art in 1997.

A portrait of Charles Blackman by Jon Molvig
Jon Molvig
Jon Molvig was an Australian expressionist artist, considered a major developer of 20th century Australian expressionism, even though his career 'only' lasted 20 years...

 won the Archibald Prize
Archibald Prize
The Archibald Prize is regarded as the most important portraiture prize in Australia. It was first awarded in 1921 after a bequest from J. F. Archibald, the editor of The Bulletin who died in 1919...

 in 1966.

Later life


After years of alcohol abuse, Blackman now suffers from Korsakoff's syndrome
Korsakoff's syndrome
Korsakoff's syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine in the brain. Its onset is linked to chronic alcohol abuse and/or severe malnutrition...

, a brain disorder affecting memory. After suffering a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 and heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 in 1994, Blackman has subsequently been under full-time care. The subject of ownership of Blackman's paintings has been a controversial issue, though his former wife Barbara maintained that her possession of some of them had been for the sake of preservation and that she intended to donate them to galleries. This commitment may have been met by the donation of five works to the National Gallery of Australia in August 2010. In a statement published by the Canberra Times newspaper, Ms Blackman said that, "At Easter my house was flooded. No paintings were damaged but since then I have been giving paintings to public collections. I have no valuable Blackmans left in my collection...".

Blackman has repeatedly expressed disdain for the concept of making money from or maintaining exclusive ownership of his paintings. His accountant and close friend, Tom Lowenstein, set up the Charles Blackman Trust to manage the painter's affairs. Lowenstein periodically sells off the works that Blackman still owns to ensure Blackman's expenses are taken care of. Blackman lives a simple but happy life in his rented home in Sydney. He meets with friends and fellow artists Judy Cassab and Marina Finlay twice a month to draw and have "passionate discussions" about art.

In August 2010, The Blackman hotel opened in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. It features 670 digitally reproduced fine art prints by Charles Blackman.

External links