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  • RICHARD LARTER - Wall Review

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RICHARD LARTER (1929-2014)

Wall Review 1972

Estimate: $120000 - 160000

Sold For:
$100000 hammer
$122727 inc. buyer's premium


RICHARD LARTER (1929-2014)

Wall Review 1972

synthetic polymer paint on canvas
180.0 x 1,451.5 cm
signed and dated lower left: Richard LARTER./ JUNE - AUGUST 1972.

Watters Gallery, Sydney
Mr Clive Evatt, Sydney
Mrs Elizabeth Margaret Evatt, Sydney

Work: Richard Larter, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 27 September - 14 October 1972
Ghost Who Walks Can Never Die: An Exhibition of Comic Strip and Other Superheroes in Australian Art, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, New South Wales, 1 September - 2 October 1977, cat.14
Richard Larter's Wall Review and Other Works from the '70s, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 4 February - 22 February 2014

Related Works:
Sliding Easy 1970, synthetic polymer paint on composition board, 122.5 x 183.0 cm, National Gallery of Australia collection, Canberra, purchased 1970Wall Review 1971, synthetic polymer paint on unstretched canvas, 200.0 x 1500.0 cm, Art Gallery of Western Australia collection, Perth, gift of the Friends of the Art Gallery, 1992The Bleeding Eye of K. Marx 1973, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 184.0 x 483.0 cm, private collection

Estimate: $120000 - 160000

Result Hammer: $100000

Wall Review is an early major painting in Richard Larter’s oeuvre, executed between June and August 1972, at a time when his work was receiving critical acclaim and was attracting the eye of art collectors. The fledgling National Gallery of Australia in Canberra was the first public gallery to acquire his work. It bought the painting Sliding Easy 1970 that relates directly to Wall Review, and it was acquired in the year in which it was painted. By the end of 1972, Larter felt sufficiently financially secure to leave his job as a high school art teacher and to devote himself to fulltime studio art practice. This was ten years after he and his family had migrated to Australia from his native England.

Wall Review is a huge sprawling collage-like painting. Built on the principle of juxtaposed heads, it is designed to intrigue and shock the beholder as a strategy to expose hypocrisy in society and within the ruling elites. Apart from the painting under consideration, in the early seventies, Larter executed two other related paintings on the same scale. Wall Review 1971, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia,(1) and The Bleeding Eye of K. Marx 1973.(2) Each painting used a complete 50-foot (15 metre) roll of canvas, and they were painted in the artist’s studio at Lot 2, Bringelly Road, Luddenham (west of Sydney). The studio was quite small and allowed Larter to only paint a small section at a time, which would then be rolled up, before he could move on to the next section. He would only see the completed painting when it was shown on the walls of Watters Gallery in Sydney.

These are ideologically charged paintings, where, as in a Sergei Eisenstein film, montage is employed to heighten the impact of a message that was delivered in a visual form. In Wall Review we encounter images of politicians, gangsters and war criminals including Al Capone, Richard Nixon, Leonid Brezhnev, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Askin and Billy McMahon as part of a ‘death wishing, thanatotic, law and order male brigade.’(3) These are juxtaposed with images of life asserting women with the artist’s wife, muse and fellow artist, Pat Larter (1936-1996), leading the charge and shown provocatively in the nude, legs apart and holding a guitar while her mouth is wide open. Amongst this group we can also identify Liza Minelli, Simone Breton-Collinet (whose husband was Andre Breton) and Germaine Greer. There are also references to the oil industry, wildlife preservation and skeletons – a real clash between the powers of good and evil presented as a colourful frieze and a dance of death and life.

Larter was a politically motivated artist, who strongly felt that the artist cannot sit idly on the fence but must take a stance. In his manifesto, Fama Clamosa (a notorious rumour ascribing immoral conduct to a minister or office-bearer in a church), Larter denounced the warmongers, the oil industry for destroying our environment and consumerism for threatening our very existence. He wrote:

It is the time of the death lords, the negative people, the petty time servers, the moralityless [sic] bureaucrats and functionaries, the ranting loudmouth politicians, and hiding behind this incoherent façade are the manipulators of greed and materialism, the worshippers of Mammon cloaked in their pseudo-Christian guise mouthing clichés that only the compliant, the apathetic and ignorant could believe … Vietnam was the watershed – not Watergate. No longer can anyone afford to believe a word uttered by the moral lepers who supported that war.(4)

He concluded with a call to arms to artists:

All is in flux: but we cannot leave you the people to wander in empty galleries, empty theatres, empty halls and palaces of learning imagining that all is well; that it is just an artistic lull, and that we will all be back shortly with inanely smiling faces like the spineless recommenders of breakfast foods … You have a choice … mindlessly you can join the walking dead to their lemming like end … or you can opt out and join the optimists, the fools, the young, the pure in heart, the holy fools, the walking wounded with brains, morals, ethics, ideals and imagination … We all live in our heads ultimately, and this means disappointment, struggle and constant change – a non-static open minded constant advancement. This is what the arts have taught you, constant flux … life is flux. Choose the hard way – opt for life.(5)

When Wall Review was first exhibited at the Watters Gallery in 1972, the art critic, artist and philosopher, Dr Donald Brook, greeted it with enthusiasm. He wrote:

One painting, at least 50 feet long, consists of juxtaposed pop-images of things that are conventionally popular, respected, admired and emulated. But in Richard Larter’s handling popularity is seen as the shallow adulation of mass-entertainment; admiration as the sustaining medium for demagogues, criminals and politicians (none too subtly ringed together), and emulation as an impulse hand in hand with greed and lechery directed at consumables among which flesh is paramount both as fact and metaphor.(6)

Daniel Thomas, as curator and art critic, from the start championed Larter’s work and in 1973 perceptively wrote of the series of work to which Wall Review belongs. Thomas noted:

Many of his collage-structure images come out of European pornographic magazines or comic strips, and they are juxtaposed with faces one knows from newspapers, like Gorton and Askin and Germaine Greer. Yet these shock tactics are only half the story. They are, I think, only a superficial reminder that underneath the representational images of power, energy, violence and so on, there is much more important kind of energy and power, namely abstract formal relationships of line and shape and colour.(7)

Larter in retrospect has been seen as one of Australia’s most highly recognisable pop artists who drew on pop culture for his source materials and appropriated imagery from news photography, pornographic magazines and film. His work is held in many major public collections and he has been awarded major survey exhibitions as well as a comprehensive retrospective held at the National Gallery of Australia in 2008.

Looking back on his career, the gallerist and art historian William Nuttall reflected:

In a career that spanned over five decades, he never lost his verve and creative energy. In the early years, the politics surrounding the representation of women’s bodies, sex, the socially vilified and socially celebrated are all in the mix, as he juxtaposed images and ideas to throw light on social hypocrisy or dissonance.(8)

Wall Review 1972 is one of the crowning jewels of his work from these early years.



1. Richard Larter, Wall Review 1971, synthetic polymer paint on unstretched canvas, 200.0 x 1500.0 cm, Art Gallery of Western Australia collection, Perth, gift of the Friends of the Art Gallery, 1992
2. Richard Larter, The Bleeding Eye of K. Marx 1973, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 184.0 x 483.0 cm, private collection
3. Richard Larter: Paintings from the Pat Larter Collection, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 15 November - 9 December 2000, catalogue notes
4. Larter, R., Fama Clamosa, August 1977, typescript, 3pp
5. Ibid.
6. Brook, D., ‘Gaining Strength’, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 28 September 1972
7. Thomas, D., ‘Art’, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 5 October 1973
8. Nuttall, W., Richard Larter: Mining the Archive: 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994, 2004, 2014, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 2015


Sasha Grishin

Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra and Guest Curator at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. He is the author of over thirty books on art, including Australian Art: A History (The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2013).



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