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Self portrait
, c. 1948

by John Brack

conte crayon on paper (sheet: 32.4 cm x 25.2 cm)

John Brack, artist, grew up in Melbourne and studied at the National Gallery School at night while working as a junior insurance clerk. After war service he resumed his studies, and in 1949 secured a job in the National Gallery of Victoria’s Print Room, where he worked until 1951, leaving to take up the position of art master at Melbourne Grammar School. His paintings succeeded immediately; his first exhibited work, Barber’s Shop, was purchased for the NGV in 1953 as was Collins Street, 5pm, three years later. In 1962 he became Head of the National Gallery Art School. Six years later, finally confident that he could make a living as a full-time artist, he resigned. He painted shopfronts, school yards, gardens and housing estates, nudes, office workers, ballroom dancers, jockeys, brides, drinkers, commissioned portraits and portraits of friends and family. In recent years The Bar 1954 and The Old Time 1969 have set new auction records for the sale of Australian paintings. This drawing was presented by the young John Brack to his friend Ursula Hoff, who was the Keeper of Prints at the National Gallery of Victoria from 1949. The work is much softer than the paintings, drawings and prints for which Brack was soon to become renowned. Art historian Sasha Grishin explains that the young artist used a study Georges Seurat made for Une Baignade, Asnières, as a guide to his own materials and composition.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Tim Fairfax AC 2010
Accession number: 2010.24