The Garden of Eden
Seagulls and sulphur smoke at Williamstown

Born Bruce Park, Western Australia 1923, died Melbourne 2000


While in hospital with polio as a young adult, John Perceval developed his passion and skill for painting. By the early 1940s he had met Arthur Boyd and spent many hours painting at Boyd’s property in Murrumbeena, Victoria. During this time he exhibited with the Contemporary Art Society, and was a member of the loose association of artists know as the Angry Penguins, which championed modernist European art movements such as surrealism and expressionism. He also became involved with the Antipodean group, which sought to preserve the importance of figurative art in the face of international abstraction.

Although painting was the major form of Perceval’s artistic expression, there were occasions when the canvas was relinquished for other forms, such as writing, poetry and pottery, of which his ceramic angel series is most notable.

The Victorian coastal areas of Port Phillip Bay and the Mornington Peninsula continually captured Perceval’s imagination. Williamstown was a particularly beloved spot, with its view of the bay and sea regular subjects for his paintings.

In 1992 the National Gallery of Victoria organised a major retrospective of Perceval’s work, and in 2004 Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery exhibited John Perceval: painting down the bay. He was also included in the important survey exhibitions The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788–1988, Art Gallery of South Australia and touring all state galleries (1988–89), The Face of Australia (1988), and Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901–2001, National Gallery of Australia and touring (2000–02).