Albert Tucker – An Angry Penguin

Day 236 of Colourisation Project – December 29

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born in Melbourne this day, 29 December 1914, Albert Lee Tucker was one of Australia’s most influential artists and a major figure of the modernist art movement in Australia.

Albert Tucker and Joy Hester 1939

Mirror self portrait: Albert Tucker and Joy Hester 1939 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Based in Melbourne, he belonged to a set known as the ‘Angry Penguins,’ which included among others, Max Harris, John Perceval, Joy Hester, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Noel Counihan. They shared a meeting place with other artists and writers at Heide, the home of the wealthy art patrons, John and Sunday Reed. Located just outside Melbourne, it is today the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

A significant force in shaping contemporary art in Australia, these modernists and social realists challenged the restrictive traditions of 1940s Australia.  The Reeds’ property at Heide became a haven for the group and provided the outlet for the expression of their avant-garde ideas.

Heavily influenced by the surrealist movement and German Expressionism, Tucker’s own expressionistic style of painting was formed during the wartime years. His first major series of paintings  collectively titled Images of Modern Evil, painted between 1945 and 1947, explored the human condition, the corruption and dehumanisation produced by the war and the commodification of sex.  A visit to Japan in 1947 where he witnessed the devastation of Hiroshima, was to have a profound effect on his work.

After the break-up of his marriage to fellow artist, Joy Hester, Tucker left Australia for Europe and America, where his focus was on Australian mythology and its role in defining our national identity. Tucker achieved international recognition when the Guggenheim Museum purchased some of his work and the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted an exhibition.

It was not until the 1960s, that he began to enjoy some success at home. Albert Tucker worked right up to his death in 1999, at the age of 84.  A legacy of more than 200 works valued at $15 million, was donated to State galleries and the Museum of Modern Art at Heide.

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 “I suppose a painting is my own private battlefield where I am still in the process of exorcising my own demons.”   Albert Tucker

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