Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions Showcased NGV Australia

Left: George Baldessin at RMIT, Melbourne c. 1965
Photo: Unknown - Right Greg Weight
Brett Whiteley – portrait 2 1975
gelatin silver photograph
50.4 x 40.4 cm (sheet)
45.2 x 30.8 cm (image)
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004, Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, (2004.117) © Greg Weight. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018
Left: George Baldessin at RMIT, Melbourne c. 1965 Photo: Unknown - Right Greg Weight Brett Whiteley – portrait 2 1975 gelatin silver photograph 50.4 x 40.4 cm (sheet) 45.2 x 30.8 cm (image) National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004, Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, (2004.117) © Greg Weight. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018
Left: George Baldessin at RMIT, Melbourne c. 1965 Photo: Unknown - Right Greg Weight Brett Whiteley – portrait 2 1975 gelatin silver photograph 50.4 x 40.4 cm (sheet) 45.2 x 30.8 cm (image) National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004, Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, (2004.117) © Greg Weight. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018

Left: George Baldessin at RMIT, Melbourne c. 1965, Photo: Unknown – Right Greg Weight, Brett Whiteley – portrait 2 1975, gelatin silver photograph, 50.4 x 40.4 cm (sheet), 45.2 x 30.8 cm (image), National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004, Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, (2004.117) ©Greg Weight. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018

Curated by Emeritus Professor Sasha Grishin AM, an exhibition Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions is now on show at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square.

The idea is to bring together the work of two major figures in the story of twentieth-century Australian art, as so many elements of their careers ran parallel to each other.

George Baldessin Performance (Variation 2) 1971 etching, aquatint and colour stencil 53.0 x 101.0 cm (image and plate), 63.5 x 111.5 cm (sheet) Private collection, Melbourne © The Estate of George Baldessin

George Baldessin Performance (Variation 2) 1971 etching, aquatint and colour stencil 53.0 x 101.0 cm (image and plate), 63.5 x 111.5 cm (sheet) Private collection, Melbourne © The Estate of George Baldessin

Primarily a printmaker, sculptor and graphic artist, George Baldessin (1939 – 1978) in his practice reflected the rich multicultural humanism of Melbourne. He was infused with inspiration from France, Japan and Italy, the country of his birth.

On the other hand, Brett Whiteley (1939 – 1992) principally a painter, printmaker and sculptor, became a celebrated figure of the Sydney art scene of my day.

He found early success in London and basked in the avant-garde culture of New York before returning to Sydney and settling in the historical precinct of Paddington.

American Dream Whiteley

Brett Whiteley: The American Dream 1968?69 oil, tempera, collage and found objects on plywood (a-r) 244 x 2196.0 cm (overall) State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Featuring over 120 rare and important works, Parallel Visions includes Whiteley’s magnus opus The American dream, 1968-69.

This immersive painting spans over twenty metres in length and was created in response to his spending time in New York City.

NGV American Dream panaroma copy

Installation view of Brett Whiteley The American Dream, 1968?69, at Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019, © Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Photo: Amelia Stanwix

It is on loan from the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

The exhibition also includes Baldessin’s MM of Rue St Denis series, 1976, which transposes the Christian figure of Mary Magdalene into the streets of Paris.

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Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Five of Baldessin’s large-scale pear sculptures, Pears 1971–72, three of which have been newly cast especially for this exhibition are on show.

His practice reflected the rich multicultural humanism of the city of arts and culture, Melbourne, which he infused with inspiration from France, Japan and Italy

George Baldessin playing backyard cricket 1950 Photo: Unknown

George Baldessin playing backyard cricket 1950
Photo: Unknown

George Baldessin and Brett Whiteley were both born in 1939 the year World War II began. George and his father remained in Italy, when his wife a naturalized Australian, returned home that year. They did not arrive in Australia to join her until 1949, when George was ten years of age.

Brett and Wendy Whiteley 1960s, Photo: Unknown

Brett and Wendy Whiteley 1960s, Photo: Unknown

Brett Whitely in the meantime was growing up with his sister Wendy, in a leafy suburb of the relatively quiet in those days, North Shore, the fashionable side of Sydney Harbour. Right from the start, Brett Whiteley was what we would term today, a creative.

He developed an insatiable appetite for learning about other artists and their work, including French artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and renowned Australian artists Lloyd Frederic Rees (1895 – 1988) and William Dobell (1899 – 1970). He was curious to know what made them so special.

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Brett Whiteley: Evening coming in on Sydney Harbour 1975, oil on cotton on canvas, 228.2 x 190.0 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Presented by Mrs Adrian Gibson as the winner of the 1975 Sir William Angliss Memorial Art Prize, 1976 (A8-1976) © Wendy Whiteley

Brett Whiteley, Totem I, (black - the get laid totem), 1978—1988, fibreglass and wood, 284.5 x 170.2 x 61 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery, 1998 ©Wendy Whiteley, Photo: AGNSW

Brett Whiteley, Totem I, (black – the get laid totem), 1978—1988, fibreglass and wood, 284.5 x 170.2 x 61 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchased by the New South Wales State Government 1994, transferred to the Gallery, 1998 ©Wendy Whiteley, Photo: AGNSW

His father was in the image business, and knew Dobell well and the great artist often visited the Whiteley home, undoubtedly having an influencing effect on the younger man’s mindset and interests.

Employed from when he was seventeen in the commercial art department of an advertising agency, he enrolled in the famous Julian Ashton School of Art and began planning his career in the world he now wanted to inhabit.

He departed for Europe in early 1960 after winning an Italian government travelling art scholarship.

His aim was to gain inspiration, by visiting museums, galleries, churches so that he could explore, not only the techniques used by artists he admired, but also seek to discover their secrets.

George Baldessin at Argus Gallery, Melbourne 1964 Photo: Unknown

George Baldessin at Argus Gallery, Melbourne 1964
Photo: Unknown

Baldessin became naturalized Australian in 1954, and a part-time waiter at the city’s Menzies Hotel before he left Christian Brother’s College.

He studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Technical college 1958-1961 before leaving to discover for himself, the current art trends in Europe.

He worked his passage to London in 1962, where he witnessed the ‘Banquet for no Eating’ theme in sculptures and etchings.

Baldessin attended printmaking classes at the Chelsea School of Art, then journeyed on to the home of Goya’s etchings in Spain.

When set alongside films by Ingmar Bergman and Luis Bunuel, they provided him with great inspiration.

George Baldessin: Performer 1972 bronze 25.0 x 26.0 x 20.0 cm The Estate of George Baldessin © The Estate of George Baldessin

George Baldessin: Performer 1972 bronze 25.0 x 26.0 x 20.0 cm The Estate of George Baldessin © The Estate of George Baldessin

‘Music Hall’ prints by Australian artist Fred Williams inspired his first etchings, which were mainly of performers and acrobats, introducing his interpretation of the human figure which would remain throughout his lifetime as his favourite subject.

During the 1960s and ongoing throughout the 1970s Baldessin and Whiteley both experienced a meteoric success in their career

Brett Whiteley: Christie and Hectorina McLennan 1964?65 oil, wax, charcoal with collage of cloth and painted wood, object wrapped in cloth and transparent synthetic polymer resin on canvas 162.9 x 214.0 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1973 (NGA 75.25) © Wendy Whiteley

Brett Whiteley: Christie and Hectorina McLennan 1964?65 oil, wax, charcoal with collage of cloth and painted wood, object wrapped in cloth and transparent synthetic polymer resin on canvas 162.9 x 214.0 cm National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1973 (NGA 75.25) © Wendy Whiteley

Whitely, was a celebrated figure of the Sydney art scene, who found early success in London and basked in the avant-garde culture of New York before returning to Sydney.

Brett Whiteley’s controversial but career-defining Christie series, 1965, boldly explores the crimes and psyche of convicted British murderer John Christie with chilling effect.

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Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV said: ‘This is the first ever exhibition to draw parallels between the practices of George Baldessin and Brett Whiteley. This exhibition showcases the ground-breaking pictorial language of both artists and reveals, among many aspects, their shared use of the human figure as a vehicle to comment on the human condition with a uniquely Australian sensibility”, Ellwood commented.

Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

“Indeed, the exhibition reveals, for the first time, the startling and unusual synergies found between the provocative and expressive imagery they both championed”, he said.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018

Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Installation view of Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions, on display at NGV Australia from 31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019 © The Estate of George Baldessin © Wendy Whiteley Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions

31 August 2018 – 28 January 2019

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square

Admission fees apply

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