Menzies Art Brands



John Perceval, The Cornfield, 1959

Although few Australian artists have led lives as troubled and as turbulent as John Perceval, his ambitious and seemingly celebratory painting, The Cornfield, gives little hint of the artist’s ultimately tragic life. It was painted in 1959, towards the end of four break-through years of achievement in painting the Australian landscape. As the climatic phase of the artist’s career, these exuberant expressionist images are recognised as Perceval’s finest work – paintings that have changed the way we have come to see and experience the Australian scene.

It’s hard to think of the 1950s landscapes without the example of van Gogh - of all the influences in Perceval’s work, that of the Dutch artist is the longest and most profound. Yet for all the display of the Australian artist’s comparable painterly joie de vivre, manifested in the painting’s radiant ecstatic response to nature, The Cornfield appears to be of a different order from most of the other landscapes painted by the artist painted during this time of high achievement. Whether this work was painted directly from the motif or not, one thing however seems clear - the painting is surely a homage to van Gogh’s celebrated Wheatfield with Crows, possibly the artist’s last and most challenging work painted shortly before the artist’s suicide in 1890.

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