Menzies Art Brands

Lot 3. Charles Blackman Blog by Tim Abdallah


Reading Julian Barnes Keeping an Eye Open has introduced me to a painter I was vaguely aware of: Felix Vallotton, the turn of the century Swiss artist, and friend of Bonnard and Vuillard. Vallotton is a fairly obscure artist, and yet he comes alive in Barnes excellent book. Of particular interest to me was the clear inspiration he provided to Charles Blackman. The mood and style of Blackmans Girl with Red Flowers is a good demonstration of the link to the curiously claustrophobic, poignant Swiss artists work. Blackmans drawing and use of colour also show the debt.

Blackmans best work, the paintings on which his reputation now rests, were painted during an intensive 10 year period beginning around 1953. The Schoolgirls (c1954) and the Alice in Wonderland (c 1956) are the best known paintings of the period, but around 1959, Blackman eschews all but the broadest thematic frameworks and presents the female without recourse to any iconographic or narrative program. In my opinion, these are Blackmans best paintings. From 1960 onward, with a few exceptions, Blackmans art is devoted to an exploration of girlhood as it transitions to womanhood. Like Vallotton, Blackman draws on an elemental theme for an extended exploration of a finite subject in order to produce paintings with infinite facets.

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