San Biagio di Callalta, Italy 1939 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1978
Pear - version number 2
[Pear - version number 2 (A group of seven pears)] 1973 corten steel: 7 forms corten steel: 7 forms
each approx. 225.0 h x 99.0 w cm
Accession No: NGA 73.559.A-H
Pear—version number 2 by George Baldessin, placed like ripe fallen fruit in the forecourt of the National Gallery of Australia, displays the artist’s abiding interest in the theatrical potential of art. A deeply layered work, it harks back to 1960s Pop Art and that movement’s fascination with replicated everyday objects on a grand scale in public spaces. But Baldessin’s seven pears are so much more than a monumental, exacting fabrication of objects. The title itself, a pun on the word perversion, provides a hint of the work’s many nuances. In some respects it is simply a natura morte, or still life, replete with the connotations of beauty and decay, both physical and moral, loaded within that genre.
Baldessin created the work while he was deeply engrossed in the complex Banquet for no eating series, which frequently contained pears as an emblem for food. Pear—version number 2 may be regarded as the culmination and embodiment of the ideas of denial, desire, eroticism and penitence percolating though the series and indeed central to the tradition of natura morte.
Mythological and Biblical concepts of metamorphosis, whereby the body is transfigured as either reward or punishment, held a profound interest for Baldessin. Here we observe the transformation of the female body into the form of pears, which—as mouth-watering and ripe as they are—can never be eaten. Yet this coupling of denial and the desire for intimacy is the source of the work’s magnetic power.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014
For Baldessin, sculpture and printmaking were ideal studio companions and seeing them side by side led the artist to appropriate materials and ideas from one for the other. Every major series of etchings was summarised by a sculpture in which the artist undertook to express in three dimensions what before had been carried out in the etching plate.
Memory Jockisch Holloway1
Monumental and yet intimately sensuous, Pear – version number 2 is a series of sevensculptures cast in cor-ten steel. The sculptures were cast horizontally in two parts and were mounted individually on pipes beneath the ground. Playfully leaning toward each other as though engaged in conversation, the elegant shapes reflect light by day and cast intriguing shadows by night.
George Baldessin arrived in Australia from Italy in 1949. He attended the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology from 1958 until 1961, studying painting and later printmaking and sculpture. In 1962, he travelled to London to study at the Chelsea Art School, and studied under Marino Marini at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. In 1967, he travelled to Japan on a scholarship and renewed his interest in Japanese Ukiyo-e coloured woodblock prints which had influenced the feeling and format of his art.
Baldessin, regarded as highly professional, complex and enigmatic, won numerous prizes and participated in many major exhibitions. Leaving an impressive legacy through his body of work, George Baldessin was tragically killed in 1978 in a car accident at the age of 39.
Susan Herbert 2002
1 Memory Jockisch Holloway in ‘Venus in Sackcloth: Eroticism and ritual in the work of George Baldessin’ in Robert Lindsay and Memory Jockisch Holloway George Baldessin: Sculpture and etchings Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria 1983 p.25.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002