Charles Blackman is a major figure in Australian art of the post-war years. His haunting and enchanting images of women and girls, absorbed in daydreams or games have an enduring appeal. Two significant themes in his work have been the Schoolgirl and Alice in Wonderland. Deep shadows and the accentuation of his figure’s eyes occur throughout Blackman’s works with a pervasive sense of melancholy.
Charles Blackman was largely self-taught, but he attended night classes in drawing and design at the East Sydney Technical College from 1942-45 under Hayward Veal. Blackman was a co-founder of the Melbourne Contemporary Art Society in 1953 and was one of seven Antipodeans responsible for the Antipodean Manifesto – a reaction against what they saw as the meteoric rise of abstract expressionism and non-figurative art in Australia and its intolerance of figurative painting. He has exhibited frequently since and is known for his facility in drawing.
In 1951 Blackman married a poet, Barbara Patterson, who was to become a lasting presence in his work. Blackman has won many awards throughout his career, including the Rowney prize for drawing in 1959, the Helena Rubenstein Scholarship in 1960, the Dyeson Endowment Award and the Crouch Prize. Blackman’s work was included in the Whitechapel Open Exhibition in 1961 and Tate Gallery exhibitions of Australian Art 1962-63. A major retrospective, ‘Schoolgirls and Angels,’ was organised in 1993 by the National Gallery of Victoria, touring to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In 1997 Blackman was awarded an OBE for his services to art. His work is held in all Australian state and most regional galleries, institutional and private collections.