“Charles Blackman was an extraordinary artist who made work that helped forge an Australian visual language of the 20th century. As a National Art School alumni he will be sorely missed, but his enduring visual language and mastery of the medium will live on.” – Steven Alderton, Director and CEO, National Art School.
The National Art School would like to pay tribute to alumnus Charles Blackman OBE, one of the most original and significant Australian artists of the post-war era. As a teenager, Blackman worked as an illustrator and subeditor’s copyboy at Sydney Newspaper the Sun before studying night classes at East Sydney Technical College for three years, from 1943 to 1946. He moved to Melbourne, where he co-founded the Melbourne Contemporary Art Society (CAS) and was one of the seven artists responsible for the 1959 Antipodean Manifesto, which protested the dominance and rise of abstract expressionism and non-figurative art. He gained recognition as a critically important artist with his Schoolgirl and Alice in Wonderland series of paintings.
After winning the Helena Rubenstein Scholarship in 1960, Blackman lived in London for six years, where his work was exhibited in the Tate Gallery exhibitions of Australian art in 1962-63. In 1970, Blackman was awarded a studio at La Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, where he lived and worked for a year. Afterwards, he would often return to Paris as a source of inspiration.
His work was described as romantic, poetic, enchanting and melancholic, exploring human relationships, dreams and memories. Blackman himself described it as ‘more feeling than art’.
A major retrospective of his work, Schoolgirls and Angels, was organised by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1993, and toured to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The NGV also held a major exhibition of his Alice in Wonderland paintings in 2006.
Blackman was presented with an OBE in 1977 in recognition of his service to the arts, and in 2010, the Art Series chain of hotels opened The Blackman in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Celebrating his 90th birthday only a week ago, Blackman had continued to draw, even after moving into an aged care facility earlier this year. The National Art School extends condolences to the artist’s family and friends.