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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The chase

1952
Charles Blackman OBE

tempera on masonite (support: 75.0 cm x 99.5 cm, frame: 98.5 cm x 123.5 cm)

Charles Blackman OBE (1928-2018), artist, was brought up by a single mother, left school early and worked for the Sydney Sun while studying by night at the East Sydney Technical School. After a few years’ drifting between Sydney and Brisbane, picking fruit to make a living, he connected with Barbara Patterson, a poet, who introduced him to literature. They moved to Melbourne, and married in 1951. She was legally blind; supported by her pension, and her earnings from modelling for artists, Blackman began to paint in earnest. With the support of art patrons John and Sunday Reed, he began to produce his signature series of paintings, incorporating schoolgirls with flowers, and Alice in Wonderland scenes with Barbara as his muse. The chase is one of several self portraits Blackman painted in Melbourne in the early 1950s, when he was working in the couple’s humble home alone. Felicity St John Moore, an authority on the artist’s work, describes the painting’s imagery of living and dead flowers as an ‘either-or choice between creation and spiritual death’, observing that the idea of clear choices facing a person at the moment of loss of adolescence – common to both Rimbaud and Gide – reflects Blackman’s intense interest in French literature at this time. Blackman and John Brack were amongst the seven artists who showed in the watershed ‘Antipodeans’ exhibition in Melbourne in 1959, asserting the importance of the figure in art in defiance of advancing American abstract expressionism. Having lived in London and Paris for some years in the 1960s, and separating civilly from Barbara in the late 1970s, Blackman proceeded to series of paintings of cats and gardens, becoming one of very few Australian artists to live to see one of his paintings sell for more than a million dollars.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Rob and Paula McLean 2011
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Charles Blackman/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Charles Blackman OBE (age 24 in 1952)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Robert and Paula McLean (1 portrait)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The family
The family
The family
The family

Big bouquet of Blackmans

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2013

Dr. Sarah Engledow explores the context surrounding Charles Blackman's portrait of Judith Wright, Jack McKinney and their daughter Meredith.

The Family

by Charles Blackman

Portrait story

Meredith McKinney, subject of Charles Blackman's 'The Family', recounts memories from her childhood and the creation of the portrait.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency