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John Passmore, c. 1970

Kerry Dundas

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 25.3 cm x 20.2 cm, image: 24.6 cm x 18.4 cm)

John Passmore (1904-1984), painter, studied with Julian Ashton in Sydney between the ages of fourteen and twenty-nine, and took some instruction from George Lambert. Between 1933 and 1950 he eked out an existence overseas. On his return to Australia he continued to seek his personal idiom, evolving from Cezanne-like forms and use of colour to his own palette, characteristic motifs, and interpretation of his Sydney surroundings. He won the Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship in 1959. Alongside his 'difficult' paintings, over the course of his career Passmore produced a series of drawings that critic Alan McCulloch describes as 'among the most remarkable series of graphic documents produced by any of his generation of Australian painters.' John McDonald claims Passmore is an artist as much identified with Sydney as Brett Whiteley. A model for the artist protagonist in Patrick White's The Vivisector, Passmore spent his last weeks in a Redfern home for destitute old men. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1984, and he was one of the twenty artists - including Dobell, Drysdale, Nolan, Fairweather and Rees - featured in the Gallery's 2000 exhibition Australian Icons (an 'opportunity to polish the family silver', as Barry Pearce put it). The John Passmore Museum, with a rotating display of the 270 works the artist bequeathed to his friend, art collector Elinor Wrobel, opened in a heritage-listed building in Woolloomooloo in 2003.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.97

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Kerry Dundas (age 39 in 1970)

John Passmore (age 66 in 1970)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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