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Charles Blackman Biography
Charles Blackman is quite simply one of the most highly regarded figurative artists in Australia. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Blackman has gained a local and international reputation as a mainstay in post-War Australian art. Probably best known for his Schoolgirl and Alice in Wonderland series, he was also a member of the Antipodeans group, and a contemporary of Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker amongst others.
Born in Sydney in 1928, Blackman’s career in visual art began as a young illustrator with the Sydney Sun newspaper. He developed his skills with night classes in drawing and design, and gained recognition for his art after moving to Melbourne in the late 1940s.
Blackman exhibited with the revived Contemporary Art Society in 1953, and was also one of the original signatories of the Antipodean Manifesto. The Antipodeans reacted to the rise of abstract expressionism, fearing that American abstraction in particular was becoming the dominant style of international art. The group’s defence of modernist and figurative art lead to major exhibitions for Blackman in London in 1960 and later in Paris.
His most familiar work, the Alice in Wonderland series reflect his facility for dream-like imagery and a melancholy sense of foreboding. His work includes portraits, landscapes and studies using a range of fine media.
His 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. His work is held in all Australian states and many regional galleries.
Blackman has won many prizes including the Rowney Prize for drawing (1959) and the Helena Rubinstein Scholarship (1960) . He was awarded an OBE in 1997 for services to Australian art.
In 2006, his painting Alice’s Journey fetched $1.02 million at Sotheby’s auction — a (then) record price for a living Australian painter.
Blackman has been in ill health after a stroke and heart attack in 1994, but continues to reside in Sydney. He has a team of dedicated carers and continues to engage in drawing.