Born Melbourne, Australia 1920, died Melbourne 1999
John Brack is one of Australia’s most widely recognised modern artists. Over a forty year career, Brack’s subjects encompassed street scenes, portraits, nudes, ballroom dancers and still lifes. The perfection of line, colour and tone were paramount to his art, as was his use of the conjunction of deep perspective and pictorial flatness. His apparently cool imagery is often laden with reflection, satire and social commentary.
Objects such as pens, pencils, cutlery and cards, humanised and shown in the midst of battle or in precarious balance, were introduced into Brack’s imagery in the 1970s as motifs for metaphorical questioning. His series of paintings featuring postcards were inspired by a visit to an overseas gallery in 1972 when Brack noted the irony of the visitor’s preference for the gallery shop and postcard reproductions of artworks, rather than for the art. Three Egyptian women (1975) is from this series and questions the difference between the real and ‘authentic’ experience versus the imagined and mediated.
A student of the National Gallery School, Melbourne during the 1940s, Brack was appointed head of the School in 1962 until 1968. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the National Gallery of Australia (1977 and 1999), Monash University Gallery (1981), and the National Gallery of Victoria (1987). His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state and many regional galleries.