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Charles Blackman, The Girl with Dark Plaits

Charles Blackman, The Girl with Dark Plaits

The Artist

One of Australia's most highly celebrated figurative artists in the latter Twentieth Century, Charles Blackman was a founding member of the Antipodeans Art Movement and a member of the Heide Circle of artists. According to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Charles Blackman was born in Sydney ( on the 12th August 1928) but grew up in Queensland. After leaving school aged only thirteen, Blackman went to work as an illustrator for the Sydney Sun newspaper.Predominantly self-taught, Blackman attended night classes at the East Sydney Technical College between 1943 to 1946.

In 1951, Blackman moved to Melbourne and became one of the group of artists which incuded Sidney Nolan, Albert Tudker and Joy Hester that centred around Heide, in the city's outer suburbs. During this time, Blackman discovered the bayside suburb of St Kilda where he would travel to draw and swim. The drawings led to a series of paintings on the theme of Luna Park with Griffin light.

Blackman's first major series, 'school girls' created between 1952 and 1955 has long captured the public imagination. In it he painted the schoolgirl figure often depicted in eerily empty street-scapes as a symbolic embodiment of urban loneliness and alienation. Further acclaim followed with his 'Alice' series  based on Lewis Carroll's book Alice in Wonderland. In the series of about 40 works of art, his wife, Barbara, served as a model for what is believed to be works of quite vivid and surreal imagination.

Charles Blackman's Alice Series

In 1959, Blackman was one of seven figurative artists who signed the 'Antipodean Manifesto'; the other artists included Arthur & David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval and Cliften  Pugh. In the manifesto the artists outlined their objects to abstract art which they felt was becoming too prominent in Australia.

Between 1960 and the early 1970s, Blackman travelled and painted in Europe. He is known to have lived in London for six years where his works were exhibited in the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Tate. In 1970, Blackman was awarded a Cite des Artes scholarship and spent a year in Paris.  On returning to Australia, Blackman continued his work and experimented in printmaking. Blackman passed away just after his 90th birthday in his Sydney home.

Blackman's art is represented the National Gallery of Australia, which holds a large collection of his prints and in all the major art galleries in Australia. He is also represented internationally in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Tate, London.

Girl with Dark Plaits by Charles Blackman

The Work of Art

Girl with dark plaits is a limited edition (10 of 75) lithograph print created in 1977 which follows many of Blackman's popular themes. The subject depicted is an anonymous girl with long plaited hair wearing a broad brimmed hat pictured from behind.  Although created in the 1970s, the image harkens back to the school girl images that were perhaps Blackman's motifs of the 1950s. The figure is solitary and dark  which perhaps offers that sense of loneliness and alienation. Psychological states of mind and associations often figure prominently in Blackman's works.

Girl with plaits by Charles Blackman

References

Charles Blackman, The Joseph Brown Collection, NGV,  https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/custom/screens/josephbrown/index.php?artistid=468&chapter=3

Charles Blackman, The Bridget McDonnell Gallery, https://www.bridgetmcdonnellgallery.com.au/blackman-charles/girl-with-plaits/

Michaela Boland, Artist Charlses Blackman, known for Alice in Wonderland series, dies aged 90, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-20/artist-charles-blackman-dies-in-sydney-aged-90/101039388

Art Gallery of New South wales, https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/artists/blackman-charles/