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Sketch of Clifton Pugh painting John Perceval, 1985

Rick Amor

pencil on paper (sheet: 26.5 cm x 37.4 cm)

Rick Amor is a Victorian-based painter, printmaker and sculptor. After studying in Melbourne and winning many prizes and grants, from 1975 to 1983 he produced a series of cartoons attacking the Fraser government, receiving valuable support from union members during a period of severe financial difficulty. After 1983 he began to paint more personal and emotionally charged works, often incorporating a haunting ‘solitary watcher’. Some of his paintings of suburban and inner Melbourne now number amongst the defining images of the city. During the 1990s Amor was awarded several art residencies and worked in Barcelona, New York and London. In 1999, as Australia’s first official war artist since Vietnam, he travelled to East Timor to document the devastated land and the Amor is a highly regarded portrait painter and a regular exhibitor in the Archibald Prize. He is represented in most major Australian galleries. The National Portrait Gallery has paintings by Amor of Peter Doherty, Shane Maloney, Dorothy Porter, Peter Cosgrove and Tony Boston as well as one of the artist’s many self-portraits, and holds a number of his prints and drawings. When the Gallery mounted the exhibition Rick Amor 21 Portraits in 2014-2015, Christopher Allen, writing in the Australian, stated ‘Amor is without doubt one of the best painters working in Australia, and arguably the best.’

In late 1972, when Rick Amor was struggling to make ends meet, his then-dealer, Joseph Brown, arranged for him to go and stay for a while at the artist Clifton Pugh’s property, Dunmoochin. In 1985 Amor and Pugh went to London, where they were exhibiting at the Crane Kalman Gallery. Halfway through that year Amor returned to live at Pugh’s property; he and his partner Meg Williams stayed there for some eight years. Through Pugh, Amor met the artist John Perceval, who was in a sorry condition. Amor sometimes went out drawing and painting with them, and drew Perceval a few times while Perceval was sitting to Pugh for a portrait.

Pugh’s brilliant portrait of Perceval was hung in the Archibald for 1985 and purchased for the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1986. Amor worked up a number of his drawings of Perceval in different media and showed an oil portrait in a show at Melbourne's Niagara Galleries in 1985. Ronald Millar, whose own portrait had been painted by Brack, wrote that the Perceval picture showed Amor’s concern with ‘different kinds of solitudes, degrees of isolation’. That portrait sold to a private collector in 2010.

Rick Amor unearthed this drawing while combing through the contents of his studio with curator Irena Zdanowicz, who is currently compiling a catalogue raisonné of Amor’s etchings for a world-first website developed by Mark Ashkenazy.

Although it is quick and slight, it is an outstanding example of Amor’s capacity to capture likeness and expression in the surest, most economical way. He has conveyed Pugh’s characteristic stance, and Perceval’s stricken condition, in a few deft strokes.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2016

Accession number: 2016.65

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Rick Amor (age 37 in 1985)

Clifton Pugh (age 61 in 1985)

John Perceval AO (age 62 in 1985)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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