Vale Notices

The National Art School has been the training ground for some of Australia’s most significant and respected artists. On this page we recognise and pay homage to our alumni who have passed away recently.


Alumni Coordinator
+61 2 9339 8797


James Roberts

The National Art School would like to pay tribute to alumnus James Roberts, who tragically died on 11 February 2019. Below is a statement prepared by James’ family.

Our beautiful son, James Edwin Roberts, ex- Nambour and Burnside High School student in the nineteen eighties, son of Lorraine and Bob Roberts, was killed in an incomprehensible, tragic accident when he fell from his bicycle, on the 11th of February because of a mechanical failure. Though wearing a safety helmet, he still sustained a massive brain injury. The police believe that sadly too many people become complacent, thinking that a helmet will protect them for receiving serious head injuries. A warning.

James has worked at the Sydney Opera House as a stage mechanist for the last 16 years, and was studying at the National Arts School. He was due to start a Master of Fine Arts degree that he had intended to follow up with a PhD soon after that. James had planned to return to Nambour to take care of his aging parents as soon as he completed his PhD.

We hope James’ friends will remember him as the fun loving kind and caring soul that he is. A book is being produced to honour his life and gift as an artist. Anyone of his friends wishing to contribute anecdotes for publication in this book and to later obtain a copy of the book can contact his parents on  for more information.

Some may remember James and a friend performing a piece about saving the trees, in the forecourt of the Nambour Council and Library in 1984.

As well as his interest in the environment, James was a member of the Palmwoods Players theatre group, appearing in Cinderella and working on set design. His prize winning characterisation performance of King Henry V in our local Eisteddfod may be remembered. James’ many other interests included: a passion for vintage old objects and a wide taste in music. James was an advocate of the fair go and had a special interest in and empathy with people who were struggling.

James was a much loved son and will be greatly missed by his parents, his sister Muria Roberts and niece Amyra Roberts Prayoga, and also his wide circle of family and friends.

Cyclists, young and old, do be careful while riding. Safety helmets cannot always provide full head protection.

Lorraine and Robert Roberts, 28 February 2019

James Barker at the launch of the Rayner Hoff Exhibition at the National Art School in 2017.
James Barker at the National Art School in 1974. Photo: Fiona Hall

James Barker 1931-2019

The National Art School would like to pay tribute to alumnus James Barker, who died on Wednesday 2nd January 2019, aged 87.

James Barker graduated from East Sydney Technical College with a Diploma in Fine Arts (Painting) in 1955. Fellow students included Ron Lambert, Robin Lawrence, Georgina Worth, Barbara Holliday, Karen Oom, Cameron Sparks and Elisabeth Cummings. In 1956 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and travelled widely from this time on.

Elisabeth Cummings joined James in Florence some years after her own graduation from the NAS, where they were married and spent the ensuing years painting, teaching and travelling throughout Europe. James studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence and with Kokoschka in Salzburg. In 1966 he opened his own studio in Florence where he taught painting and drawing.

He returned to Australia in 1968 taking a teaching position in painting and art history at the National Art School and also at the University of Sydney with Dr. Lloyd Rees. His astounding depth of knowledge of art history and his dry wit was a great bonus for his many students at the National Art School.

He continued his painting practice, held many solo exhibitions and was the recipient of art awards throughout his life. He maintained his close ties with the National Art School for over sixty years.

The National Art School extends condolences to James’s family and friends, particularly his son Damian, Elisabeth Cummings and second wife Josephine Maxwell.

Charles Blackman OBE 1928-2018

“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.
Charles Blackman as a young man, courtesy the Blackman Family.
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