Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1914 – 1999
Sunbathers 1944 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on cardboard
In Sunbathers Albert Tucker projected his feelings of unease and anxiety during the Second World War onto his local landscape, Melbourne’s St Kilda beach. The ideas of recreation and play associated with the beach are replaced in this work by Tucker’s forms of swollen, blistered flesh. In his painterly approach Tucker revealed his knowledge of the work of German Expressionists, the Surrealists and Picasso that he adapted to express his personal feelings.
Tucker was interested in the night-time activities of the city, and between 1943 and 1947 painted a body of work that he called Images of modern evil. These paintings are powerful social commentaries that explore the dark and gritty side of urban wartime life.
In Sunbathers Tucker reduced the human body to a bulbous landscape of headless, conical limbs. The skin appears to glow from within and the figures cast shadows in opposite directions. In this surreal landscape Tucker has reduced the beach into the basic elements of sand, sea and sky—all of which are depicted using heightened, symbolic colour. The dark band of sky evokes the tense evening ‘black-outs’ Melbourne experienced during the war.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008