Salisbury, England 1919 – Yass, New South Wales, Australia 1970
Young girl on a balcony c.1947 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas mounted on plywood
Basically, the thing that I’m really striving for is to express the feeling I have about that subject. Sometimes I can put it down very quickly, and sometimes it takes me months and months of reorganization of the shapes and colours and tones to get that feeling. When I’ve got that, that is as much as I can do.
In the tradition of the European Symbolists, David Strachan developed his own poetic imagery from an arrangement of figures, flowers and birds. In his late 30s he studied at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, where he assimilated Carl Jung’s ideas that dreams and subconscious experiences could be used for creativity. In his art, he sought to lend expression to personal feelings and imaginings and give them a general relevance.
In Young girl on a balcony, he depicted a pubescent girl standing naked with her head lowered in private thought, perhaps dreaming of a lover. The vase of flowers beside her and the water in the bay have sexual connotations; together they imply the awakening of love and passion. Strachan painted this tranquil, suggestive image while he was living on the top floor of Paul Haefliger’s and Jean Bellette’s house at Double Bay – probably using a model that Haefliger and Bellette also employed. Like Bellette, Strachan created timeless, classic images that contain some of the spirit and solidity of the old masters but, whereas Bellette turned to the realm of mythology, Strachan developed his images out of everyday scenes. Strachan gave his commonplace subjects a sense of mystery and enchantment: we do not see this girl as living in a pragmatic world, with a towel draped over her arm passing to or from a verandah bathroom, but rather as stilled in her dream world for all time.
1David Strachan, interview with Hazel de Berg, 1962, Hazel de Berg Collection, National Library of Australia.
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