• Image of Modern Evil: Nightmare no.28

    Image of Modern Evil: Nightmare no.28 1946

    Albert TUCKER

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    Notes

    Albert Tucker’s work first attracted attention in Melbourne in the 1930s during the Depression when he earned a precarious living as a freelance illustrator, painter and writer.

    In the 1940s, Tucker was living in the bayside suburb of St Kilda where he began his Images of Modern Evil series. Image of Modern Evil 1945 depicts a tram looming out of the darkness, a naked, fleshy form lying directly in its path. Tucker was shocked at what he perceived to be the immoral behaviour of young women on St Kilda’s streets during the Second World War. The darkness and symbolic forms used here are a metaphor to explore darker aspects of the human psyche.

    In Tucker's words, ‘[The images] came directly out of wartime Melbourne ... I was still the Outraged Edwardian puritan and the crescent [shown in this work in place of the prone figure’s lips] seemed to embody the virulent and primal sexuality that had been released in the blackout.’

    The blackness of the images from this series goes beyond the blackness of the wartime blackout. For Tucker, the blackness is symbolic, a symbol of evil (as in the title) and of the other side – the unconscious and the irrational.

  • Soul singer at Luna Park

    Soul singer at Luna Park (1942-1943)

    John PERCEVAL

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    Notes

    John Perceval’s experience with the war was limited. He enlisted voluntarily but only served for eight months due to a polio infection, which exempted him from active service. He remained a keen observer of Melbourne during the war years, painting intense and passionate works of the city and its people.

    Soul Singer at Luna Park 1942 was inspired by the Jazz night club scene in Swanston Street, which was a haunt for service people on leave. Who can doubt that in this expressive interplay of dark and light the accordion player is singing the blues? Every brushstroke attests to the blues mixture of joy and sadness, the human condition.


Melbourne

Wartime Melbourne

Melbourne in the 1940s was suffering from the effects of the Second World War (1939–1945) and this was expressed in various ways by a group of young artists who broke away from the dominant artistic style of the day. Known as the Angry Penguins after a modernist magazine of the same name, the group included artists such as John Perceval, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker.

  • Tucker’s Images of Modern Evil

    Albert Tucker’s work first attracted attention in Melbourne in the 1930s during the Depression when he earned a precarious living as a freelance illustrator, painter and writer.11

    In the 1940s, Tucker was living in the bayside suburb of St Kilda where he began his Images of Modern Evil series. Image of Modern Evil 1945 depicts a tram looming out of the darkness, a naked, fleshy form lying directly in its path. Tucker was shocked at what he perceived to be the immoral behaviour of young women on St Kilda’s streets during the Second World War period. The darkness and symbolic forms used here are a metaphor to explore darker aspects of the human psyche.

    In Tucker's words, ‘[The images] came directly out of wartime Melbourne ... I was still the Outraged Edwardian puritan and the crescent [shown in this work in place of the prone figure’s lips] seemed to embody the virulent and primal sexuality that had been released in the blackout.’ 12

  • Boyd’s ‘nightmarish canvases’

    With the outbreak of war there was tension in the air. Jobs were scarce, the Depression was hardly over and life, particularly for rebellious young artists, was tough. Arthur Boyd, a sensitive painter of impressionist landscapes, was influenced by the prevailing mood and the dark expressive paintings of his contemporaries.

    From about 1940–1945, Boyd made a group of paintings, described by the artist as ‘psychological or poetic fantasies’. These nightmarish canvases, including The Cripples 1943, are littered with the maimed and the monstrous. Bizarre figures hobbling on crutches or chasing kites and butterflies – symbols of freedom – were a disturbing breakaway from his previous imagery. 13

  • Perceval paints the blues

    John Perceval’s experience with the war was limited. He enlisted voluntarily but only served for eight months due to a polio infection, which exempted him from active service. He remained a keen observer of Melbourne during the war years, painting intense and passionate works of the city and its people.

    Soul Singer at Luna Park 1942 was inspired by the Jazz night club scene in Swanston Street, which was a haunt for service people on leave. Who can doubt that in this expressive interplay of dark and light the accordion player is singing the blues? Every brushstroke attests to the blues mixture of joy and sadness, the human condition. 14

Endnotes


  • 11 Albert Tucker, Faces I have met, Hutchinson of Australia, Melbourne, 1986.

    11 Felicity St John Moore, Angry Penguins and realist painting in the 1940s, Australian Exhibitions Touring Agency, 1989, p.19.

  • 13 Jan Minchin, ‘The Violent Vision of the 1940s’, Art Bulletin of Victoria No. 26. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986, pp. 25–40.

  • 14 Barrett Reid, Of Dark and Light – The Art of John Perceval, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1992.