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Albert Tucker

(1914—1999)


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Australian painter and printmaker, born in Melbourne. Because he could not afford full-time training, he was mainly self-taught as an artist. In the 1930s and 1940s he took a vigorous part in controversies about modern art in Australia, contributing several articles to Angry Penguins. Although he was a member of the Australian Communist Party for a brief period, he was opposed to their demands for Socialist Realism, especially that artists should take part in promoting the Allied war effort. He complained that ‘They were trying to turn the artist into an illustrator of political concepts and this was simply not on’. He served in the army during the war, and in 1947 he visited Japan, where he worked briefly as an official artist to the Allied occupation forces. Later that year he moved to Europe, where he lived in London (1947–8), France (1948–50), Germany (1951), Italy (1952–6), and London again (1956–8). He then spent two years in New York before returning to Melbourne in 1960. Tucker's early work, influenced by Expressionism and Surrealism, is marked by a highly personal interpretation of social, political, and psychological concerns, as in his Images of Modern Evil series (1943). These depictions of the physical and psychological effects of war were attacked by the Communist Review in 1944 on the grounds that they ‘reflected the panic of those members of the upper and middle classes who are terrified of the enormity of war and the necessity of sacrifice’. In 1952, whilst living in Italy, he painted a series of religious pictures, and in 1955 (partly because of contact with Nolan in Rome) he turned for the first time to themes of the Australian frontier: bushranging, exploration, and the desert. These toughminded works reveal the impact of Art Brut and the textural pictures of Burri and Tàpies. During the 1960s and 1970s Australian imagery became dominant in his work, as in the Bush series, but in the 1980s he turned more to portraiture.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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