Londesborough, England 1862 – Montrose, Victoria, Australia 1935
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour with highlighted in gum arabic Support: paper
The rehearsal is typical of Blamire Young’s later watercolours. It presents an imaginary scene on stage, with a cast of characters in Victorian dress, sitting waiting under the shadow of a huge stage curtain. While painted in Young’s idiosyncratic watercolour style, it expresses an Edwardian fascination with the romantic and the dramatic, and a period interest in technical virtuosity. The artist commented about this work to a prospective buyer:
‘The price on The Rehearsal was protective, because this picture I have always had a special regard for. I think I shall have to keep it a bit longer. There is a quality in the background that I never was able to get again – though I have tried several times – which distinguishes it from other drawings.’1
English-born Blamire Young emigrated to Australia in 1885 to teach mathematics, but was persuaded to pursue a career as an artist by his friend, the cartoonist, Phil May. While living in Britain 1893–95 he became familiar with the work of the Beggarstaff Brothers, William Nicholson and James Pryde, who had revolutionised poster design in England through their decorative approach. On his return to Australia, Young used similar bold designs and areas of flat colour in his work.
Young exploited the possibilities of watercolour and the texture of the paper to create poetic effects. He mixed bright colours with quiet tones to create dramatic contrasts. He quickly covered a sheet of paper with a general tint, and then before this was dry he tilted the paper to let the wash settle into forms that he used as a basis for his images – both Australian landscapes and imaginative scenes. Fellow artist, Julian Ashton, maintained:
‘His long experiments had given him a dexterity in the use of all sorts of inventions in the practice of watercolour which has certainly never been equalled by any Australian watercolourist.’2
1Blamire Young to Oscar Paul c.1923, National Library of Australia MS 1825: Dr Walter Paul, 101 letters from artists.
2Julian Ashton, ‘Blamire Young and his work’, Art in Australia, series 1, no.3, 1917, [p.22].
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