Francis Lymburner painted The dancers in 1937, the year after he left Brisbane Technical College and two years before he moved to Sydney. The theatre, and in particular the ballet, held a great fascination for this artist. During the 1940s, he was considered by many to be at the forefront of developments in contemporary art in Sydney, alongside William Dobell, Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend.
The dancers shows Lymburner’s interest in works from Picasso’s ‘rose period’, using similar subject matter. Like Picasso, Lymburner was interested in performers – dancers, actors, musicians, clowns – a world away from everyday reality. As Barry Pearce has said: ‘He painted the world the way he wanted it to be, a romantic, fantastic counterpart to the dreary realities of existence.’1 Lymburner depicted the dancers with warm pink and flesh tones, exaggerating their solid muscular legs with long elegant curves. He placed them in a balanced composition of wedges. The grooves of the floorboards draw the eye towards the centre of the canvas, while the arrangements of feet forms an apex pointing towards the bottom. Rather than performing, Lymburner’s dancers are clustered, perhaps on a break during a rehearsal. Chatting or resting, the dancers appear to be waiting, maybe for a curtain call.
1Hendrik Kolenberg and Barry Pearce, Francis Lymburner, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1992, p.10
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