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The Eye of the Beholder (Book Review)

The Eye of the Beholder

My bookshelf has a hard to come across copy of The Eye of the Beholder: Albert Tucker’s Photographs by Dr Janine Burke from the Heide Museum of Modern Art book shop at Heidelberg, a suburb North-East of Melbourne. It includes a number of photographs made by Albert Tucker, one of Australia’s best and most influential painters of the Twentieth Century, as they were exhibited between 1998-2000. The reason you can only buy this sought after gem at Heide is probably because they publish it.

To understand the importance of Albert Tucker’s photographs you need to see the art environment of his time. He was a member of an influential and dynamic group of artists dating back to the late 1930s and 1940s known as the Heide Circle, centred around art patrons and collectors John and Sunday Reed at their home, “Heide”. This former dairy farm is now the Heide Museum of Modern Art. The Reed’s collection forms the core of the current museum’s art collection.

In the 1940s the artists in the Heide Circle included Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Danila Vassilieff. For years Sidney Nolan lived with the Reeds in an open affair with Sunday Reed. Albert Tucker was married to Joy Hester. And, sadly, Albert and Joy’s child Sweeney was passed over to the Reeds and he lived a privileged but tortured life that ended in suicide at 31 years of age. This book is about the very core of Australian art culture at a very specific point of time.

However, Heide was one of three Melbourne art communities important to the era. The Boyd’s circle at Open Country produced significant work and this book includes a number of photographs of Arthur, David, Mary, Merric, Lucy and Guy Boyd within the Open Country circle. While Justus J├Ârgensen established Montsalvat in 1934 as an artist colony. So the Albert Tucker snapshots within these three circles of art ideas brings the reader an important glimpse into the lives of household names in Australian art.

The images are powerful, carefree and candid. Snapshots. Well made snapshots that often drag me back into this book for another visual taste. There is something about the uncontrived nature of the snapshot that draws me as a photographer. I’m enamoured not only by who the photographs reveal, but the context of time. An intimate portrait of a past era. Real people behind the veneer of later fame.

As a body of work, Albert Tucker’s photographs stand by themselves – the Boyds, Perceval, Nolan, the Reeds. One of my favourite photography books.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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