signed and dated lower left: Garry Shead 2009
Savill Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
(c) courtesy of the artist
The Love on Mount Pleasant suite of paintings by Garry Shead (b.1942), is one of the artist’s most significant bodies of work. Bacchus at Mount Pleasant 2009, encapsulates a little-known narrative that lies at the core of the nation’s cultural life. The extraordinary story surrounding its creation will assist in a further appreciation of the work.
A curious aspect of the suite was its long maturation. Maurice O’Shea (1897-1956) was the man who made miraculous wines along the gentle slopes of Mount Pleasant at Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley. He is regarded as one of the nation’s foremost winemakers. The great vintner was the uncle of the artist Garry Shead: it was Uncle Maurice who gave his young nephew ‘permission’ to be an artist. The story of O’Shea’s love of the land, love of his vines and his passionate love for his young wife and muse, Marcia, is the subject and theme of the Love on Mount Pleasant suite.
In 1966, a decade after O’Shea’s death, Shead mounted an exhibition at Watters Gallery in Sydney to honour the memory of his uncle after a visit to the Hunter Valley with architect Philip Cox. Both were deeply disturbed by what they saw: not long before a demolition team had been at work. Maurice O’Shea’s corrugated iron winery at Mount Pleasant in Pokolbin, that had been the hub of a momentous outpouring of creative genius, was gone.
Considered an unsafe workplace and an eyesore, the old winery didn’t stand a chance. The respected wine authority, Len Evans, pleaded in vain with the McWilliams family, who had been O’Shea’s sponsor since 1932, to spare this singular piece of Australian wine-making history. Now the only records we have are in anecdotes from the few people who remembered the place, and the photographs taken by Max Dupain of the 1951 vintage. Thankfully, the unique character and presence of the structure was instilled in Shead’s imagination. In fact, the old winery forms a good deal of the background in Bacchus at Mount Pleasant. The corrugated iron structure encompassed a workplace with its old oak stave presses and concrete vats, cellar, studio and library, living quarters and kitchen galley. There was no electricity: all the work was powered by hand. The winery rose up from a dirt floor, and to keep it cool in summer, the exterior was whitewashed, intensifying the dynamic interplay of light and shade. Seen in all quarters were O’Shea’s beloved cats. On chilly evenings, he was often seen strolling among the vines with one of the favoured felines draped around his shoulders.
In September 1921, Maurice met the young, musically talented Marcia Singer Fuller. He was instantly smitten. The one constant in Maurice’s life was his love for Marcia matched by his love of the vineyard. A proposal of marriage was accepted, yet there was the vexed question of religion: Maurice was a practicing Catholic and Marcia a Methodist. He was denounced and threatened with ex-communication by a Father Quinn, the parish priest of Cessnock. The drama of the forbidden union was captured in Shead’s poignant work, Outside the Church 2009.
Bacchus at Mount Pleasant conjures the atmosphere of a ritual celebration that appears to be on the verge of deterioration. Bacchus rises above the tableau with arms outstretched, whilst his retinue of satyrs and a maenad dance and cavort with a bull on the fringe of the party. The black swan peering from the skylight of the winery represents Aphrodite, a goddess well aware of Bacchus’ playful indulgence and ultimate indifference to the human condition.
New Visitors: To utilise all the features of this site you will need to register a new account - to do this you can click on the "Person" icon in the header or the "Save Favourite" or "Register Your Bid".
Once you have an account you will be able to save your favourite artwork(s), register online for Absentee or Telephone Bids, save and print bid forms and save all our auction/viewing dates to your chosen calendar. Account holders receive automatic calendar updates and email notifications.
Absentee or Telephone Bids: By Clicking on the "Register Your Bid" icon you will asked to register an account or login - once you have logged in you will be able to register your bid online.
If you do not wish to register online you can click the "Download Bid Forms" icon and download a pdf of the bid form. Then please print, fill out and fax or email it back to the contacts on the form. Note: that all Bidding Registrations must take placed 24 hours before auction time. Contact us on 1300 346 327 if you have not received acknowledgment of your bid within 24 hours.
Condition Reports: By Clicking on the "Condition Report" icon you are specifically requesting via email a condition report from our art specialist. We will contact you via return email, if you do get a response in 48 hours please call us on 1300 346 327.
Save as Favourite: By Clicking on the "Save as Favourite" Icon you saving this artwork into your user account as favourite and you can view all your favourites in your user account. If you have specific question about an artwork please call us on 1300 346 327.
Share Artwork: By Clicking on the "Share Artwork" Icon you saving this artwork into your selected social media account. If you have specific question about an artwork please call us on 1300 346 327.