The purchase by the Gallery in 1960 of Albert Tucker’s Antipodean head II 1959 was the first by a public gallery in Australia. It was followed by gifts and purchases of paintings, gouaches and drawings in the 1970s, '80s and '90s; however the promise last year by Barbara Tucker, the artist’s widow, to gift eight paintings and 83 drawings to the Gallery, will bolster the collection of his work more substantially than ever before. The works comprising this promised gift are on loan and this is the first time a selection of them is on show.
Albert Tucker (1914-99) is, with Sidney Nolan (1917-92), one of the most important Australian artists from the decades following the Second World War. Tucker and Nolan remained good friends and correspondents throughout their lives. Tucker’s first wife was the artist Joy Hester (1920-60). Early association with Melbourne art patrons John and Sunday Reed was critical to the appreciation of the early work and development of each of these three artists. The Reeds’ property at Heide is now a public museum and study centre focusing on his art and that of his contemporaries.
Tucker’s Images of modern evil 1943-47 established him as a maker of highly expressive, often excoriating images of modern life. From the start he revealed an affinity with the work of the German expressionists and an admiration for the art of Pablo Picasso. Tucker was in Japan with an American journalist attached to Allied Forces in 1947 and lived and worked in Europe between 1947 and 1960. Keen to establish himself internationally, he lived and worked in Paris, Rome, London and New York; his first solo exhibition was in Amsterdam in 1951. In 1954 he and Nolan exhibited together in Rome. In 1958 the Museum of Modern Art in New York bought a painting by him and in the same year he won the Australian Women’s Weekly Art Prize, precipitating his return to Melbourne in 1960.
Thereafter the Australian landscape increasingly provided Tucker with powerful themes - Antipodean heads, explorers, the bush, bird and animal life. Remarkable also are his many self portraits and portraits of friends and contemporaries - Nolan, John Perceval, Michael Keon and Barrett Reid among them.
This exhibition includes eight paintings by Albert Tucker and eighty-three works on paper.