F. Millward GREY, Jim, an Australian boy. Enlarge 1 /1

F. Millward GREY

Islington, England 1899 – Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 1957

  • Australia from 1923

Jim, an Australian boy. c.1935 Place made: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper drypoint, printed in dark brown ink, from one plate Support: paper

Primary Insc: not dated. signed printed lower right within image 'F. Millward Grey'. not titled.
Dimensions: plate-mark 21.4 h x 18.8 w cm sheet 39.3 h x 26.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.918
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, May 1980.

Jim, an Australian boy was produced in the inter-war years by Frederick Millward Grey, who had recently travelled to Adelaide from England to take up his appointment as teacher of painting, drawing and commercial art at the School of Fine Arts there. In his realist approach, he has much in common with that of fellow British contemporaries such as etcher, Gerald Brockhurst. His works are dispassionate and psychologically probing studies.

The portrait of the unknown young boy is sharp and cutting, and the technique of drypoint used by the artist is in perfect accord with the image. It is an uneasy portrait; the boy, still perhaps a school student, turns to face Millward Grey. His clearly modelled facial features reveal a sensitive nature, but one that is perhaps already sceptical of the future.

It could be that Millward Grey was reflecting his own unease with the political situation in Europe in the 1930s. As a young student, his life had been thrown into disarray by the First World War, and his later prints of pilots and naval officers in uniform have a sense of futility and heroic sadness. His move to Australia may have been a physical escape from Europe, but its war-torn legacy is seen in his haunting images.

Roger Butler

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