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The family
, c. 1955

by Charles Blackman

oil on board (frame: 104.5 cm x 142.0 cm, support: 91.0 cm x 122.0 cm)

Judith Wright (1915-2000) was a poet, literary critic, editor, and fiction writer, as well as an active and influential conservationist and Aboriginal rights advocate. Her poems accordingly reflect 'the love of the land we have invaded and the guilt of the invasion'. Wright met and married the journalist, playwright and bushman Jack McKinney in the 1940s, and the couple became good friends with Charles and Barbara Blackman. Meredith McKinney (b. 1950) was to become a scholar of Japanese and a literary translator. Her collaborative translations of her mother's works have been published in Australia and Japan. This work recalls a day when the Blackman and Wright/ McKinney families, both to assume great cultural significance to Australia, happily picnicked at Cedar Creek near Tamborine in the winter of 1955. It was in private collections for more than forty years before Barbara Blackman heard it was for sale through a Melbourne gallery. She purchased the painting of her 'good dear beloved long friend' especially for the National Portrait Gallery, which she has long championed. In March 2000 the two women were present at a function in the gallery to celebrate the acquisition of the work and Wright's 85th birthday. Wright died just a few weeks later. Charles Blackman OBE (b. 1928), artist, studied at East Sydney Technical College before moving to Melbourne, where he came to the attention of art patron John Reid. With Reid's support, he began to produce his signature series of images, incorporating schoolgirls with flowers and Alice in Wonderland figures and motifs. He was a signatory to the Antipodean Manifesto (loosely, a defence of figuration against abstraction) in the early 1950s. After he won the Helena Rubenstein Scholarship in 1960, his work was shown in the important Whitechapel and Tate exhibitions in London in 1961-1962. Exhibiting prolifically throughout his career, over the 1970s he produced softer images of cats and gardens. In the early 1990s, a period during which he revisited themes of his early work, a Blackman retrospective show toured nationally. Renowned especially for his drawing, Blackman is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and all state galleries.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Barbara Blackman 2000
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2000.20