Max MELDRUM, The yellow screen (Family group) Enlarge 1 /1


27 Oxford Street, Edinburgh, Scotland 1875 – 24 Belmont Ave, Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1955

  • Australia 1889-1900
  • France 1900-13
  • Australia from 1913
  • USA, Europe 1931

The yellow screen (Family group) [Le pararent jaune The family group] 1910-11 Place made: Pacé, Brittany, Ille-et-Vilaine, France
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas mounted on composition board

Primary Insc: No inscriptions
Dimensions: 217.5 h x 140.0 w cm framed (overall) 2325 h x 1550 w x 85 d mm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1969
Accession No: NGA 69.52

Max Meldrum felt bound to record only what the eye saw at any particular moment. He believed forms existed only if they were defined by light; as they lost their substance in shadows. The figures represented are Max Meldrum (at the age of 35), his wife Jeanne and his eldest daughter Ida. For all its visual objectivity and size, The yellow screen (Family group) is probably Meldrum’s most intimate and personal work in this genre. Feeling has not been submerged by the clinical analysis and insistence on scientific method so characteristic of his later work.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Max Meldrum was one of many painters who spent hours making copies of major historical works in European museums to discover the secrets of their success. In The yellow screen (Family group) 1910–11, Meldrum paid homage to Diego Velázquez’s renowned painting, Las meninas (The family of Phillip IV) c.#1656.

Meldrum painted himself alongside his French-born wife and their first daughter, posed in a similar manner to Velázquez’s depiction of the Infanta Margarita. The yellow screen (Family group) is one of Meldrum’s few intimate paintings; a rarity in an oeuvre in which personal or literary meaning was considered secondary to the pursuit of optical truths in nature.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2013
From: Miriam kelly, Capital & Country: The Federation Years 1900 – 1913, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2013