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John Brack Sold at Auction Prices

Painter, b. 1920 - d. 1999

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            • BRACK John (1920-1999), 'La Traviata,' 1981., Colour Lithograph 119/150, 66x49cm (image)
              May. 26, 2024

              BRACK John (1920-1999), 'La Traviata,' 1981., Colour Lithograph 119/150, 66x49cm (image)

              Est: $4,000 - $6,000

              BRACK, John (1920-1999) 'La Traviata,' 1981. Colour Lithograph 119/150 66x49cm (image) PROVENANCE: Macquarie Galleries, Sydney (purchased 1990); private collection, Sydney.

              Davidson Auctions
            • CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Reclining nude, lithograph, 45 x 30cm, 69.5 x 55cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithogra
              May. 26, 2024

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Reclining nude, lithograph, 45 x 30cm, 69.5 x 55cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithogra

              Est: $250 - $350

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Reclining nude, lithograph, 45 x 30cm, 69.5 x 55cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithographs. (Melbourne: Lyre Bird Press, 1982); this example from unbound sheets sourced from the estate of Brack's art dealer, Rudy Komon.

              Leski Auctions Pty Ltd
            • CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double nude II, lithograph, 45 x 65cm, 70 x 88cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithograph
              May. 26, 2024

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double nude II, lithograph, 45 x 65cm, 70 x 88cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithograph

              Est: $500 - $750

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double nude II, lithograph, 45 x 65cm, 70 x 88cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithographs. (Melbourne: Lyre Bird Press, 1982); this example from unbound sheets sourced from the estate of Brack's art dealer, Rudy Komon.

              Leski Auctions Pty Ltd
            • CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999), Nude standing in front of a Chinese screen, lithograph, 39 x 28cm; framed 66 x 53cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen or
              May. 26, 2024

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999), Nude standing in front of a Chinese screen, lithograph, 39 x 28cm; framed 66 x 53cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen or

              Est: $200 - $300

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999), Nude standing in front of a Chinese screen, lithograph, 39 x 28cm; framed 66 x 53cm overall. Printed in an edition of 200 (unsigned & unnumbered, as issued); intended for the publication "John Brack nudes. Fifteen original lithographs. (Melbourne: Lyre Bird Press, 1982); this example from unbound sheets sourced from the estate of Brack's art dealer, Rudy Komon.

              Leski Auctions Pty Ltd
            • John Brack, Australian 1920 - 1999, Nude seated in a chair, lithograph, 45 x 31.5cm
              May. 16, 2024

              John Brack, Australian 1920 - 1999, Nude seated in a chair, lithograph, 45 x 31.5cm

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              John Brack Australian, 1920 - 1999 Nude seated in a chair lithograph signed "John Brack" and dated 82 in pencil on margin lower right, edition 10/50 John Brack Nudes: Fifteen

              For-Auction
            • JOHN BRACK, THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961
              May. 14, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961

              Est: $35,000 - $50,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961 ink and watercolour on paper 40.0 x 73.0 cm 61.0 x 90.0 cm (frame) signed and dated lower right: John Brack 61 inscribed with title verso: The Surrey / Gardens  PROVENANCE South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne Clive Brown, Melbourne Thence by descent Maureen June Brown, Melbourne Estate of the above EXHIBITED John Brack, South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, August – September 1961, cat. 15 LITERATURE McCulloch, A., ‘Wilder side of Suburbia’, Herald, Melbourne, 16 August 1961 Millar, R., John Brack, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1971, pp. 54, 56, 65, pl. 18 (illus.), 108 Grishin, S.,  The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 1, p. 84, vol. 2, cat. p102, p. 53 Lindsay, R.,  John Brack, A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 121 RELATED WORK Summer in the Suburbs, 1960, oil on canvas, 75.0 x 115.5 cm, in the collection of the University of Queensland, Brisbane Study for ‘Roundelay’, 1964, ink and gouache, 45.8 x 91.5 cm, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne ESSAY Interviewed by Robert Hughes in 1959, John Brack declared, ‘National style is a thing of the past… I couldn’t care less about Australian Myths and Legends. I suppose bushrangers are very beautiful, but they bore me.’1 Emphasising his perspective on the type of subject matter that was relevant to a local, contemporary audience, Brack continued, ‘there’s only one true sort of Australian painting… and it consists of truthfully reflecting the life we see about us.’2   As a committed painter of modern life, Brack found the subjects of his art in his immediate surroundings, the suburbs and the city of Melbourne. His best-known paintings of 1950s Australia, such as The New House, 1953 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and the iconic Collins St, 5p.m., 1955 (National Gallery of Victoria), are full of acute observations of contemporary living and, although seemingly humorous and ironic, such images were primarily motivated by an intense interest in people and the human condition, and the desire to produce an essentially humanist art. These subjects also offered Brack new artistic territory. As he explained, suburbia ‘almost seems to be the invention of Australia. It is a theme which hasn’t the disadvantage of having already been explored by painters better than oneself.’3   The Surrey Gardens, 1961 is one of a small group of works, including North Balwyn Tram Terminus, 1954 and The School, 1959, that depict subjects which were close to the artist’s home at the time and in this instance, just a short walk away. Located in Union Road in the Melbourne suburb of Surrey Hills, the Surrey Gardens were established in the first decade of the twentieth century. William Guilfoyle, the renowned botanist who famously designed Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, was consulted about the design and planting scheme.4 Brack was a skilled draughtsman and this work, which combines fine drawing in pen and ink with broad areas of watercolour wash, highlights both the precision of his technique and his careful observation of the world around him. He records the distinctive elements of the Gardens; a pair of cannons which commemorate the end of the Boer War in 1902; the memorial stone cross and cenotaph (with an ornamental Art Nouveau honour roll by wood-carver John Blogg) which were erected after the First World War; and the central rotunda, which was built in 1921 in memory of local resident John Gray. While Brack depicts Surrey Gardens devoid of people, it is a space that is redolent with the implications of human presence and activity. Indeed, the fact that there are no figures in the image only serves to emphasise the loss that is memorialised by these various structures.   The Surrey Gardens was exhibited in a 1961 solo exhibition at Violet Dulieu’s South Yarra Gallery and purchased by Clive Brown, whose family has retained it ever since. In his Age review of the exhibition, Alan McCulloch observed, ‘John Brack… views the case for life in suburbia with notable objectivity… as commentary Mr Brack’s art is right on the ball, the product of a highly intelligent observer or sufferer, depending on how you look at it.’5   1. Brack cited in Hughes, R., ‘Brack: Anti-Romantic Gad-Fly’ in The Observer, 21 March 1959, p. 182 2. ibid. 3. Brack cited in Tony Morphett (director), The Lively Arts: John Brack, ABC-TV documentary, Melbourne, 1965 4. See https://www.surreyhillsprogress.org.au/about-surrey-gardens-and-the-shrine 5. McCulloch, A., ‘Wilder side of suburbia’, The Age, Melbourne, 16 August 1961   KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack This work is located in our Melbourne Gallery

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)
              May. 09, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)

              Est: $100 - $200

              JOHN BRACK Australia, (1920 - 1999) The Boucher Nude offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed) Published by The Australian and Ibis Imprints, 1969

              Lawsons
            • John Brack (1920-1999) The Racecourse Stand, 1956
              May. 07, 2024

              John Brack (1920-1999) The Racecourse Stand, 1956

              Est: $30,000 - $50,000

              John Brack (1920-1999) The Racecourse Stand, 1956 signed and dated lower left 'John Brack / 56' watercolour and ink on paper 40.0 x 62.0cm (15 3/4 x 24 7/16in).

              Bonhams
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude III 1982 lithograph, ed. 33/50 42 x 30cm; frame size: 68 x 53.5cm
              May. 02, 2024

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude III 1982 lithograph, ed. 33/50 42 x 30cm; frame size: 68 x 53.5cm

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude III 1982 lithograph, ed. 33/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 42 x 30cm; frame size: 68 x 53.5cm PROVENANCE: Angela Tandori Fine Art, Collingwood Private collection, Melbourne OTHER NOTES: Other examples of this print are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. © Helen Brack

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)
              Apr. 24, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)

              Est: $100 - $200

              JOHN BRACK Australia, (1920 - 1999) The Boucher Nude offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed) Published by The Australian and Ibis Imprints, 1969

              Lawsons
            • JOHN BRACK, NO MORE, 1984
              Apr. 24, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, NO MORE, 1984

              Est: $800,000 - $1,000,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) NO MORE, 1984 oil on canvas 137.0 x 137.0 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 1984 PROVENANCE Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney (label attached verso) Joan Clemenger AO and Peter Clemenger AO, Melbourne, acquired from the above in December 1996 EXHIBITED John Brack, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 21 September – 12 October 1985, cat. 6 John Brack Paintings and Drawings, DC-Art, Sydney, 19 September – 15 October 1988 John Brack Recent Paintings and Drawings, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 13 April – 1 May 1993 LITERATURE Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 1, pl. 53, pp. 164, 166 (illus.), vol. 2, cat. o282, p. 37 RELATED WORK No More, 1984, watercolour, pen and ink, 68.0 x 68.0 cm, private collection, illus. in Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 2, cat. p289, p. 241 ESSAY John Brack’s motivation for painting remained consistent throughout his career. In 1956, following the National Gallery of Victoria’s purchase of Collins St, 5p.m., 1955, he wrote to Eric Westbrook, the gallery’s director, explaining, ‘One either has a subject, or one has not… If I choose to paint the life I see around me, it is because I find people more interesting than things.’1 Brack satisfied this intense interest in people by finding subject matter in his immediate surroundings, the suburbs and the city of Melbourne, and now iconic paintings such as The New House, 1953 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and The Bar, 1954 (National Gallery of Victoria) still stand as acute observations of modern Australian life. While the clothing, hairstyles, interiors and other accoutrements of mid-century suburban life imbue these paintings with a strong sense of nostalgia, it is what they reveal about human behaviour and its inevitable predictability, irrespective of the era, that is most compelling. It is this element which also provides the thematic link between Brack’s most well-known works and his later paintings.  During his tenure as head of the Melbourne National Gallery School between 1962 –  68, Brack maintained a studio in a small room behind his office, however the demands of his job and the seriousness with which he approached it left little time for making art. While no commercial exhibitions took place during these years, the positive regard in which his art was held was reflected in his inclusion in several important international exhibitions and the awarding of the inaugural Gallaher Portrait Prize in 1965 for his painting of Harold (Hal) Hattam (private collection, Melbourne). In 1967 the exhibition John Brack, Fred Williams was mounted at Albert Hall in Canberra, displaying side-by-side the art of two great friends who would eventually be counted among the most significant figures in twentieth century Australian art. Brack resigned from the Gallery School at the end of 1968 and with the promise of a monthly stipend offset against annual sales from Sydney art dealer Rudy Komon, he was able to paint full-time and constructed a purpose-built studio at home. Including paintings from the ballroom dancing series, Brack’s first commercial exhibition with Komon was held in 1970. The following year he was awarded the Travelodge Art Prize and a monograph by Ronald Millar was published, firmly cementing his place in contemporary Australian art.  In late 1973 Brack and his wife, Helen, left Australia for the first time. With plans to travel in England and Europe for two months, he painstakingly planned their itinerary, ‘down to the specifics of street maps and detailing individual paintings that would form cultural targets.’2 While the experience of visiting great historical cities and seeing works of art known up until then only in reproduction left Helen buoyant, John was overwhelmed by the loss of control he felt in such unfamiliar surroundings.3 Despite this, the trip prompted a marked shift in Brack’s art and over the next few years, the human figure disappeared from his paintings almost entirely, replaced by a range of inanimate objects including museum postcards, umbrellas, pencils, playing cards and wooden artists’ manikins. Perhaps not surprisingly, when Brack showed these new paintings publicly, his audience was confounded. The social commentary that had been such a consistent feature of his work appeared to have been discarded, along with the human figure. Sandra McGrath typified the cool response of many to this new imagery, writing in the Australian newspaper that ‘Brack’s work celebrates an intellectual rather than an emotional approach to life and art. It’s a unique vision and puts him outside the mainstream of Australian art.’4  Combining this esoteric selection of objects with various domestic props to construct subtle visual metaphors, Brack found another way to express his perspective on the perennial forces of human nature, in the process transforming his view from the local to the universal.5 As Helen Brack observed, ‘What John saw in the collections of Europe gave him all the courage and consolidation and self-confidence he needed to develop the paintings of Grand Human themes that were not in his consciousness when he was young, trying to identify in the Suburbs.’6 The first paintings in this vein were exhibited under the broad title of the Unstill Life Series and combined finely rendered depictions of cutlery and postcards of antiquities which Brack had collected during his visits to museums overseas. Gleaming knives and forks often appear to hover in space while the postcards are precariously balanced on their edges and corners. These paintings, and almost all that followed, also incorporated a distinctive new element in which an irregular border frames the central image. In addition to disrupting the viewer’s right-angled perspective and drawing attention to the illusionistic nature of painting, this feature also pointed to the possibility of something else beyond the painted surface. ‘John wanted to somehow alter the balance. He knew that although the human framework calls to the right-angle and the horizontal and the vertical, you can talk about other things in the margins. The margins here are very important, because they are about the dark past, other ages. He was extremely interested in how you can use structure to say what you want to say.’7  If the meaning behind Brack’s Unstill Life paintings remained elusive to most viewers, the works that followed, with their themes of alliance, conflict and division, should surely have made it clear. As Sasha Grishin has noted, the artist now sought ‘to express the whole complexity of social interconnections. The form needed the potential for intricacy and complexity as well as the ability to be organised with deceptive simplicity. It needed to be a thing of considerable visual beauty, yet one that could be treated in a completely impersonal way and be worked with a sense of technical detachment in order to make the picture appear silent, permanent and durable.’8 In the late 1970s umbrellas, walking sticks, pencils and pens became the active figures in Brack’s paintings and, just like people, they are seen forming into groups, declaring allegiances, breaking rank and marching in triumph. The Battle, 1981 – 83 (National Gallery of Australia) is the major work from this series and by far the largest painting within Brack’s oeuvre. Setting himself the challenge of painting what he regarded as an impossible picture, Brack set out to depict the immense scale and minute detail of a military battle – specifically the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, with the French forces in blue, surrounded by the English in red and the Prussians in brown. Recalling drawing-room conversations after dinners held at the home of his new wife’s parents decades before, where ‘those old gentlemen would start refighting the battles of World War I…[picking] up their knives and forks and salt-cellars… to represent the lines of the troops’, Brack stated, ‘My pens and pencils are the same thing.’9   The densely massed pens and pencils of No More, 1984 appear to describe a crowd, perhaps one that is marching in protest and holding aloft a banner of playing cards which spells out the title of the painting. The message is clear – No More! – but the presence of a pair of additional cards just visible at the top edge of the painting introduces a nagging, unanswered question – No More What? We see Brack’s enjoyment of colour as the crowd of yellow, pink, lime green, blue and other brightly-hued writing implements builds. Moving in from the sides and squeezing into the centre, they are oblivious to those who have fallen, and seemingly compelled on an inexorable and inevitable path that is directed by the vertiginous tilt of the table, down to the floorboards below. The crowd builds as brightly coloured writing implements move in from the sides to join its ranks, squeezing into the centre, oblivious to those who have fallen, and seemingly compelled on an inexorable and inevitable path that is directed by the vertiginous tilt of the table, down to the floorboards below. The surface of the marble table is littered with hundreds of pencil marks, both within the confines of the marching pencils and, inexplicably, on the path in front of them, suggesting that this is not the first time such a crowd has gathered on this site. The meaning of Brack’s imagery is always enigmatic, but in the context of his exploration of human nature and the recognition that generation after generation, little changes, No More might indeed represent a personal protest against what he perceived as the inevitability of human behaviour and our inability to learn from past mistakes.   Like all of Brack’s late paintings, No More is the result of intense preparation and a meticulous technique. A series of working drawings preceded the construction of an elaborate tableaux in his studio. Using a variety of furniture props, including a marble-topped table – a familiar feature in many of the late paintings carefully selected for its distinctive veined pattern – he would build a model with fishing line and tape used to suspend actual cutlery, postcards, pencils and other items in place. From this, he would make a single, highly detailed preparatory drawing on which the painting was based. Using fine brushes and glazes to minimise the appearance of brushstrokes, Brack aimed to heighten the pictorial realism in these works and in this way, to engage viewers so that they could focus on the meaning of his imagery rather than being distracted by expressive painterly bravura.10 In the late paintings Brack’s perspective expanded beyond the local to encompass the universal. As Patrick McCaughey eloquently concluded, ‘The strategy of these paintings is clear; here the still life goes beyond the observed and the daily and passes into the life of metaphor… John Brack… transforms himself from the classicist whose forms are drawn from the experience of the world to the allegorical fabulist. The still life enables him to ruminate and reflect on ideas and arguments beyond the scope of observed appearance. Brack becomes a ‘modern history painter’, able to take on the largest speculations pictorially through the humble genre of the studio still life.'11 1. Brack to Eric Westbrook, 15 April 1956, National Gallery of Victoria Artist File 2. Gott, T., A Question of Balance: John Brack 1974 – 1994, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2000, p. 4 3. Ibid., pp.4 and 6 4. McGrath, S., ‘Brack’s unique vision’, The Australian, 27 December 1975, cited in Gott, ibid., p.8 5. The exceptions to this were the nudes, a subject which Brack painted throughout his career, and occasional portraits. 6. Helen Brack, cited in Gott, op. cit., p. 18 7. Ibid., p. 11 8. Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, p. 140 9. Brack, cited in Grishin, ibid., p. 152 10. See Grishin, op. cit., p. 132 11. McCaughey, P., ‘The Complexity of John Brack’ in Lindsay, R., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 9 KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)
              Apr. 10, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)

              Est: $100 - $200

              JOHN BRACK Australia, (1920 - 1999) The Boucher Nude offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed) Published by The Australian and Ibis Imprints, 1969

              Lawsons
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude II 1982 lithograph, ed. 29/50 43 x 29cm
              Apr. 10, 2024

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude II 1982 lithograph, ed. 29/50 43 x 29cm

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude II 1982 lithograph, ed. 29/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 43 x 29cm PROVENANCE: Angela Tandori Fine Art, Collingwood Private collection, Melbourne OTHER NOTES: Other examples of this print are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. RELATED WORK: John Brack, Seated Nude 1981, conte on paper, 74.5 x 56.5cm, Lawson~Menzies, Sydney, 10 November 2011, lot 44 © Helen Brack

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)
              Mar. 17, 2024

              JOHN BRACK, Australia (1920 - 1999), The Boucher Nude, offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed), sheet: 57 x 86.5 cm. (22.4 x 34.0 in.)

              Est: $200 - $300

              JOHN BRACK Australia, (1920 - 1999) The Boucher Nude offset lithograph, edition of 2500 (unframed) Published by The Australian and Ibis Imprints, 1969

              Lawsons
            • JOHN BRACK, THREE FIGURES, 1971
              Nov. 22, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, THREE FIGURES, 1971

              Est: $50,000 - $70,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) THREE FIGURES, 1971 oil on canvas on plywood 39.5 x 47.0 cm signed and dated lower left: John Brack 71 inscribed with title verso: Three Figures PROVENANCE Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne Private collection, Canberra, and the United Kingdom, acquired from the above in 1972 Thence by descent Private collection, Sydney EXHIBITED Recent paintings by John Brack, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 1 – 17 September 1971, cat. 14 LITERATURE Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. II, cat. o193, p. 27 (illus.) Lindsay, R.,  John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 126 ESSAY The following excerpts are from Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. I, pp. 121 – 22: ‘…The series of gymnasts of 1971 and 1972 consists of ten oil paintings and eight conté drawings. Thematically, it presents a logical progression from the ballroom dancing series – the concern with senseless ritual as recreational activities are converted into difficult and testing labour. In its formal language, however, there are signs of a fundamental change. A constant preoccupation in Brack’s art is identity. This can be traced back to a youthful interest in books on physiognomy as well as a later study of Nigel Dennis’  Cards of Identity with its questions of ‘re-identification’ and ‘personal distinctiveness’ ... Up to this point, Brack’s images of still-life objects – scissors, knives and forks – were kept separate from figure compositions, although he did imbue these still life objects with a symbolic existence. In the gymnast series, the stick-like figures start to lose a little of their human identity and increasingly become formal elements that symbolically convey humanity as observed from a distance. The whole setting is reduced to a minimum – the featureless floors and walls of the gymnasium, with a few lines on the bare floorboards marking off the extent of the playing arena. They are very sparse compositions where the figures remain the dominant elements but no longer occupy most of the picture space. The origins of the gymnast motif probably can be traced back to Brack’s observation of his own children when they were young, although when he commenced the series his youngest daughter was almost twenty and all the gymnasts in the first series are boys. Implied in this association is the artist's concern that angst is being pushed down onto our children: “... a series of pictures dealing with children doing gymnastic exercises, the idea here is related to balancing and falling, but not absolutely collapsing – you know, the world is going on in a series of stumbling lurches, but not absolutely collapsing... it is not the abyss, it is stumbling, but it is not the abyss.”1 The first series of gymnasts is largely preoccupied with exploring a number of premeditated ambiguities intended as a visual metaphor commenting on the complexity of life... there is a statement about balance and imbalance, movement and stability, unity and discord, implying in the antinomical sense that at the moment of greatest balance there exists the greatest potential for imbalance, that ascent implies descent, and so forth. These slight, almost sexless figures cast against the naked floorboards are involved in part of a ritual as complex as life itself. Having attained for a brief moment a state of triumph, they hover as if frozen on the pinnacle of their success, precariously balancing, tottering on the brink of collapse without actually collapsing. The more complex compositions such as Three figures, Three Pairs and Four Pairs and a single, all of 1971, explore further the concept of harmonious coordination and competitiveness, with the figures competing against one another and against the other pairs; there is as well the inner competition within each figure, each pushing itself to the very edge of disaster. At the same time there is a need, at least for the outside observer, for the figures to appear to relate to one another in a state of harmony and coherency that masks reality…’ 1.  John Brack on John Brack, Lecture, Australian National University, Canberra, 1977, p. 7 © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, WIG SHOP WINDOW, 1970
              Nov. 22, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, WIG SHOP WINDOW, 1970

              Est: $600,000 - $800,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) WIG SHOP WINDOW, 1970 oil on canvas 146.0 x 114.5 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 70 signed and inscribed with title verso: JOHN BRACK / 'WIG SHOP WINDOW' PROVENANCE Leonard French, Heathcote, Victoria, acquired directly from the artist in the 1970s Thence by descent Private collection, Melbourne EXHIBITED John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 10 December 1987 – 31 January 1988, cat. 78 (label attached verso) LITERATURE Lindsay, R.,  John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, cat. 78, pp. 125, 140 Grishin, S.,  The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. I, p. 124; vol. II, cat. o177, pp. 24, 138 (illus.) RELATED WORK Wig Shop with Pink Lampshade, 1970, oil on canvas, 130.0 x 89.0 cm, private collection, illus. in Lindsay, R.,  John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, cat. 79, p. 65 ESSAY There has been much discussion in print and digital media about the so-called ‘pink tsunami’ associated with the marketing of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie. Our recent saturation in PANTONE 219C (Barbie Pink) in fact has a much longer and wider popular culture context, of which the present work is exemplary.   In the post-war years, prior to John Brack’s painting The Wig Shop Window, the association of the colour pink with perceptions of femininity steadily gathered momentum, from the fuschia Trevilla creation worn by Marilyn Monroe in the ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ sequence of Billy Wilder’s Some like it hot (1953) and Kay Thompson’s fashion anthem ‘Think pink’ in Stanley Donen’s Funny face (1957), to the hot pink Mary Quant A-line modelled by Twiggy in 1966; from the ‘First Lady Pink’ affected by Mamie Roosevelt to the iconic pink wool Chanel suit worn by Jacqueline Kennedy on the day of her husband’s assassination.   John Brack’s painting inherits these trends, while addressing the very specific historical context of 1970, when (according to the Women’s Weekly) ‘Summer pink [was] the in color for the current pretty-girl look and for the fashion mood of soft curves. Paris says lots of pink for day and night and it comes in a galaxy of shades – hot pink, soft pink, pink in prints, and the new-again pink worn with black.’1 Brack is notably attentive to this chromatic wave, not only in the present work and its companion Wig shop with pink lampshade, 1970 (private collection), but in other pink pictures from the same season, notably the ballroom dancing series picture The old time, 1969 (TarraWarra Museum of Art), the still life Peonies, 1970 (Wollongong Art Gallery), and one of the first of a new series, Nude with pink rug, 1970 (private collection). In these works, the subtle dental-plastic greyed pink which the artist had employed in Veterinary instruments, 1963 (private collection) and The scissors shop, 1963 (private collection) is lifted to an almost shocking lolly shade, as here: in the walls of the shop, and in the legs, skirt and face of the shop assistant, the garishness offset by roseate and purpled browns in the floor and window embrasures, and by the framing lavender-blue metal window frame.   Every bit as intriguing and compelling as its palette is the The Wig Shop Window's disegno, its composition. As with so many of Brack’s paintings, it combines deadpan social-satirical observation and flat finish with a subtle surrealism, a formal and spatial disorientation, an equivocation arising from disrupted vision. As Patrick McCaughey puts it: ‘behind the impersonal, unbroken surfaces lies a world which seethes with irony, ambiguity, where the normal is displaced or held in a difficult balance.’2   In his years working as head of the National Gallery School, then located in what is now State Library Victoria in Swanston Street, Brack did a lot of walking around the city, and the commercial displays of central Melbourne’s streets – medical suppliers, hardware stores and such – provided sympathetic stage sets for his theatre of waking dreams. He regularly employed the conceit of the shop window still life for almost a decade, from The scissors shop to Inside and outside, 1972 (National Gallery of Australia), ‘a succession of visionary flashes based on an unspoken contact between the sealed-off occupants (humans or apparently still life) of a glassed-in otherworld, and the intruder-observer-inspector who stares and waits and decides.’3   In the present work, Brack plays his perceptual and conceptual games through the window of Abe Lourie’s Swanston Street shop, ‘Creative Wigs.’ He creates an elusive, preconscious feeling of discomfort in the viewer through the exact alignment of the front of the middle shelf with the bottom edge of the back wall, through the alignment of the back of that same shelf with the bottom hem of the salesgirl’s mini-skirt, through the disappearance of the top of the doorway on the left into a mass of curls, and through the tilted, off-centre, not-quite-straight frame of the window. We feel, with Peter Tyndall, a certain ‘vertigo from… the absence of shadows and the playfully uncertain vanishing points.’4 Within this illusion box, this camera rosea, the consumer products are arrayed four-three-two along three glass shelves, the blank-faced light grey wig-stands looking like silver winner’s cups in a racing trophy case, or even South American Shuar tsantsa (shrunken heads) in a museum vitrine, each one of them surmounted by shiny, writhing Medusa curls in black, brunette and blonde.5   For all that Brack’s aesthetic depends on the flat-patterned, the angular-geometric, and the linear-spiky, he also displays a perverse fondness for the organic and curvilinear, and particularly for the representation of human hair. The big wigs of the present work have a full barber’s shop window full of curly-top precedents: from the carefully-painted, pony-tailed, and beribboned Little girl’s head (Vicky), 1955 (private collection) and the tousled top of a short-back-and-sides in Portrait of Fred Williams, 1958 (Art Gallery of South Australia) to the Mister Whippy soft-serve ice cream cloud of hair above a spanner mouth in The queen’s aria, 1960 (private collection) and the cake icing/pavlova impastoed veils and hats of the wedding series of 1960 – 61, even the blue floral hat worn by Barry Humphries in the character of Mrs Everage, 1969 (Art Gallery of New South Wales). Here, bolstered by contemporary tonsorial fashion, he goes to town with half a dozen fantastic inventions of Baroque complexity and Rococo caprice – coils, folds, hooks, S-curves – looking for all the world like microscopic or marine invertebrate flora or fauna.   Perhaps more disturbing either than Brack’s fictive architecture or the alien life form hairpieces is his placement of the figure, presented in such a way that she seems to have neither shoes nor arms, with her head appearing to sit on the top shelf, squeezed in between and slightly below the brown and black trichological competition. On her proper left side, the neck curve of the wig-stand in front trims her generous coiffure into a bob. The celebrated flatness, the forwardness of Brack’s painted surface places her on the same plane as the shop’s inventory, while the blank, bored, inscrutable expression on her face, with its heavily mascaraed eyes and straight-line Revlon Sky Pink lips, is oddly inhuman, more that of a mannequin than of a flesh and blood woman. No Women’s Weekly ‘soft curves’ here. Rather, she is of a piece with the model figures in the earlier shop window series, ‘replicas of human life, figures not quite materialized into human bodies.’6   Reviewing Brack’s series of nudes with Persian carpets that immediately followed this work, Daniel Thomas observed: ‘Obviously he likes toying with real versus artificial. He has been very interested in false legs, false hair, tailor’s dummies, forced expressions, reflections… All this is a reminder that any picture is itself artificial, too.’7 A masterly exercise in airless artifice, The Wig Shop Window is John Brack at the height of his powers: of observation, of construction, and of wit.   1. Keep, B., ‘Summer pink pretty-girl’, Australian women’s weekly, 14 January 1970, p. 20 2. McCaughey, P., ‘The complexity of John Brack’, in Robert Lindsay (ed.), John Brack: a retrospective exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 8 3. Millar, R., John Brack, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1971, p. 18 4. Tyndall, P., ‘John Brack retrospective at Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria’, bLOGOS/HA HA, 24 April 2009 https://blogos-haha.blogspot.com/2009/04/john-brack-retrospective-at-ian-potter.html 5. The work was formerly owned by Brack’s contemporary and friend, the painter Len French. He maintained that Brack painted the plain, straight wig at the bottom left as a sly portrait à clef of Brack’s wife Helen.  6. McCaughey, op. cit. 7. Thomas, D., ‘Display of nudes’, Sunday Telegraph, 11 April 1971   PROFESSOR DAVID HANSEN © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961
              Nov. 22, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961

              Est: $50,000 - $70,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) THE SURREY GARDENS, 1961 ink and watercolour on paper 40.0 x 73.0 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 61 inscribed with title verso: The Surrey / Gardens  PROVENANCE South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne Clive Brown, Melbourne Thence by descent Maureen June Brown, Melbourne Estate of the above EXHIBITED John Brack, South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne, August – September 1961, cat. 15 LITERATURE McCulloch, A., ‘Wilder side of Suburbia’, Herald, Melbourne, 16 August 1961 Millar, R., John Brack, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1971, pp. 54, 56, 65, pl. 18 (illus.), 108 Grishin, S.,  The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 1, p. 84, vol. 2, cat. p102, p. 53 Lindsay, R.,  John Brack, A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 121 RELATED WORK Summer in the Suburbs, 1960, oil on canvas, 75.0 x 115.5 cm, in the collection of the University of Queensland, Brisbane Study for ‘Roundelay’, 1964, ink and gouache, 45.8 x 91.5 cm, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne ESSAY Interviewed by Robert Hughes in 1959, John Brack declared, ‘National style is a thing of the past… I couldn’t care less about Australian Myths and Legends. I suppose bushrangers are very beautiful, but they bore me.’1 Emphasising his perspective on the type of subject matter that was relevant to a local, contemporary audience, Brack continued, ‘there’s only one true sort of Australian painting… and it consists of truthfully reflecting the life we see about us.’2   As a committed painter of modern life, Brack found the subjects of his art in his immediate surroundings, the suburbs and the city of Melbourne. His best-known paintings of 1950s Australia, such as The New House, 1953 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and the iconic Collins St, 5p.m., 1955 (National Gallery of Victoria), are full of acute observations of contemporary living and, although seemingly humorous and ironic, such images were primarily motivated by an intense interest in people and the human condition, and the desire to produce an essentially humanist art. These subjects also offered Brack new artistic territory. As he explained, suburbia ‘almost seems to be the invention of Australia. It is a theme which hasn’t the disadvantage of having already been explored by painters better than oneself.’3   The Surrey Gardens, 1961 is one of a small group of works, including North Balwyn Tram Terminus, 1954 and The School, 1959, that depict subjects which were close to the artist’s home at the time and in this instance, just a short walk away. Located in Union Road in the Melbourne suburb of Surrey Hills, the Surrey Gardens were established in the first decade of the twentieth century. William Guilfoyle, the renowned botanist who famously designed Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, was consulted about the design and planting scheme.4 Brack was a skilled draughtsman and this work, which combines fine drawing in pen and ink with broad areas of watercolour wash, highlights both the precision of his technique and his careful observation of the world around him. He records the distinctive elements of the Gardens; a pair of cannons which commemorate the end of the Boer War in 1902; the memorial stone cross and cenotaph (with an ornamental Art Nouveau honour roll by wood-carver John Blogg) which were erected after the First World War; and the central rotunda, which was built in 1921 in memory of local resident John Gray. While Brack depicts Surrey Gardens devoid of people, it is a space that is redolent with the implications of human presence and activity. Indeed, the fact that there are no figures in the image only serves to emphasise the loss that is memorialised by these various structures.   The Surrey Gardens was exhibited in a 1961 solo exhibition at Violet Dulieu’s South Yarra Gallery and purchased by Clive Brown, whose family has retained it ever since. In his Age review of the exhibition, Alan McCulloch observed, ‘John Brack… views the case for life in suburbia with notable objectivity… as commentary Mr Brack’s art is right on the ball, the product of a highly intelligent observer or sufferer, depending on how you look at it.’5   1. Brack cited in Hughes, R., ‘Brack: Anti-Romantic Gad-Fly’ in The Observer, 21 March 1959, p. 182 2. ibid. 3. Brack cited in Tony Morphett (director), The Lively Arts: John Brack, ABC-TV documentary, Melbourne, 1965 4. See https://www.surreyhillsprogress.org.au/about-surrey-gardens-and-the-shrine 5. McCulloch, A., ‘Wilder side of suburbia’, The Age, Melbourne, 16 August 1961   KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • § JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Finale 1973 oil on canvas 146 x 114.5 cm
              Nov. 21, 2023

              § JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Finale 1973 oil on canvas 146 x 114.5 cm

              Est: $550,000 - $750,000

              § JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Finale 1973 oil on canvas signed and dated 'John Brack 1973' lower left 146 x 114.5 cm PROVENANCE John Brack, Melbourne Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above Australian and International Paintings, Sculpture and Works on Paper, Deutscher-Menzies, Melbourne, 25 April 1999, lot 83, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above Australian & International Fine Art & Sculpture, Menzies, Sydney, 23 June 2016, lot 36, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above EXHIBITED Winter Exhibition 1973: Recent Acquisitions, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 18 July - 2 August 1973, no. 57, illustrated John Brack: Paintings and Drawings, Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney, 10-28 November 1973, no. 3 LITERATURE Ursula Hoff, Robert Lindsay and Patrick McCaughey, John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, pp. 127, 128 Sasha Grishin, The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, Vol. 1, p. 128Vol. 2, cat. no. o207, pp. 28, 149 (illustrated)

              Smith & Singer
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 35/50 43 x 30cm
              Nov. 15, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 35/50 43 x 30cm

              Est: $2,500 - $3,500

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 35/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 43 x 30cm PROVENANCE: Private collection, Melbourne OTHER NOTES: RELATED WORK: John Brack, Seated Nude 1981, conte on paper, 77 x 58.5cm, Smith & Singer, Sydney, 25 June 2020, lot 45

              Leonard Joel
            • John Brack 1982, a signed lithograph.
              Oct. 15, 2023

              John Brack 1982, a signed lithograph.

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              John Brack 1982, a signed lithograph. Number 42/ 50. Nude Lady on a cushion. Print size. 43 x 30 cm. Frame size 79 x 56 cm.

              E J Ainger
            • JOHN BRACK, STUDY FOR ‘THE MERTZ NUDE’, 1965
              Oct. 10, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, STUDY FOR ‘THE MERTZ NUDE’, 1965

              Est: $20,000 - $30,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) STUDY FOR ‘THE MERTZ NUDE’, 1965 conté on paper 48.5 x 65.0 cm 76.0 x 91.5 cm (frame) signed and dated lower left: John Brack 65 PROVENANCE Laurence Course, Melbourne, a gift from the artist Thence by descent Private collection, Melbourne RELATED WORK The Mertz Nude, 1965, oil on canvas, 96.3 x 129.4 cm, commissioned by the Mertz Collection of Australian Art, illus. in Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. II, cat. o150, pp. 21 and 132 © courtesy of Helen Brack This work is located in our Melbourne Gallery

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Mirrors and Scissors 1966
              Aug. 30, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Mirrors and Scissors 1966

              Est: $2,000 - $4,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Mirrors and Scissors 1966 etching 33.0 x 45.0 cm (image); 37.5 x 49.0 cm (sheet) edition: 7/50 (only 23 printed); state: 3/3 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 66 numbered lower left: 7/50 printed by Murray Walker, Melbourne

              Menzies
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Nude in Profile 1978
              Aug. 30, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Nude in Profile 1978

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph 65.0 x 47.5 cm (image) edition: 239/300 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 78 numbered lower left: 239/300 titled lower centre: Nude in Profile printed by John Robinson, George Baldessin and Les Kossatz, Melbourne

              Menzies
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double Nude II (from John Brack Nudes) 1982
              Aug. 30, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double Nude II (from John Brack Nudes) 1982

              Est: $3,000 - $5,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude II (from John Brack Nudes) 1982 lithograph 45.0 x 65.0 cm (image) edition: 47/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 numbered lower left: 47/50 printed by Druckma Press, Melbourne

              Menzies
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double Nude I (from John Brack Nudes) 1982
              Aug. 30, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Double Nude I (from John Brack Nudes) 1982

              Est: $3,000 - $5,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude I (from John Brack Nudes) 1982 lithograph 44.0 x 64.0 cm (image) edition: 48/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 numbered lower left: 48/50 printed by Druckma Press, Melbourne

              Menzies
            • JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On Two Hands and One Foot 1973 conté on paper 21 x 16 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne
              Aug. 23, 2023

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On Two Hands and One Foot 1973 conté on paper 21 x 16 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne

              Est: $15,000 - $20,000

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On Two Hands and One Foot 1973 conté on paper signed and dated 'John Brack 73' lower left; inscribed '"ON TWO HANDS & ONE FOOT"' verso (label) 21 x 16 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne PROVENANCE John Brack, Melbourne Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above on 11 March 1975 Private Collection, Melbourne, by descent from the above EXHIBITED John Brack: Recent Paintings, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 24 February - 11 March 1975, no. 23 John Brack Drawings 1945-1979, Monash University Exhibition Gallery, Melbourne, 9 June - 10 July 1981, no. 49 LITERATURE Sasha Grishin, The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, Vol. 2, cat. no. p190, pp. 62-63, 222 (illustrated)

              Smith & Singer
            • JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On the Rings 1976 colour lithograph on paper, edition 3 of 5, from an edition of 5, plus artist's proofs 75 x 55
              Aug. 23, 2023

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On the Rings 1976 colour lithograph on paper, edition 3 of 5, from an edition of 5, plus artist's proofs 75 x 55

              Est: $8,000 - $12,000

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 On the Rings 1976 colour lithograph on paper, edition 3 of 5, from an edition of 5, plus artist's proofs inscribed '3/5' lower left; inscribed 'On the Rings' lower centre; signed and dated 'John Brack 76' lower right 75 x 55 cm (sheet) PROVENANCE John Brack, Melbourne Crossley Gallery, Melbourne Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 1976 LITERATURE Sasha Grishin, The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, Vol. 2, pr20, pp. 77, 259 (illustrated, another impression)

              Smith & Singer
            • JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Green Nude 1971 oil on canvas 115.6 x 89 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne
              Aug. 23, 2023

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Green Nude 1971 oil on canvas 115.6 x 89 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne

              Est: $200,000 - $250,000

              JOHN BRACK 1920-1999 Green Nude 1971 oil on canvas signed and dated 'John Brack 71' lower right 115.6 x 89 cm frame: original, maker unknown, Melbourne PROVENANCE John Brack, Melbourne Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Sydney (stock 2,858) Leon Velik, Melbourne Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne (stock 5,939) Mutual Permanent Building Society, Melbourne, acquired from the above on 22 March 1977 Statewide Building Society, Melbourne Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne (stock 7,643) Dr Gavin Cottrell, Melbourne, acquired from the above on 3 July 1980 Australian and European Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Christie's Australia, Melbourne, 24 November 1993, lot 197, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne 19th & 20th Century Fine Australian and International Art, Deutscher-Menzies, Melbourne, 20 August 2001, lot 40, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne Fine Australian & International Art, Lawson-Menzies, Sydney, 15 April 2003, lot 31, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne Paintings, Lawson-Menzies, Sydney, 31 July 2006, lot 348, illustrated Paul Leeds, Melbourne Australian & International Fine Art & Sculpture, Menzies, Sydney, 28 March 2019, lot 42, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above EXHIBITED John Brack, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, 7-28 April 1971, no. 8 Recent Paintings by John Brack, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 1-17 September 1971, no. 5 Autumn Exhibition 1977: Recent Acquisitions, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 7-22 March 1977, no. 94, illustrated Spring Exhibition 1980, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 1-10 September 1980, no. 196, illustrated Spring Exhibition, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 25 October - 16 November 1990, no. 38 LITERATURE Alan McCulloch, 'Innocence and Eloquence - Brack's Voice of Silence', The Herald, Melbourne, 1 September 1971, (illustrated) Sasha Grishin, The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, Vol. 2, cat. no. o187, 'Green Nude', pp. 26, 143 (illustrated)

              Smith & Singer
            • BRACK John (1920-1999), 'Nude on Bed,' 1972., Lithograph 23/25, 48.5x62cm
              Aug. 20, 2023

              BRACK John (1920-1999), 'Nude on Bed,' 1972., Lithograph 23/25, 48.5x62cm

              Est: $1,500 - $2,500

              BRACK, John (1920-1999) 'Nude on Bed,' 1972. Lithograph 23/25 48.5x62cm

              Davidson Auctions
            • JOHN BRACK, SEATED NUDE WITH SCREEN, 1982 - 83
              Aug. 16, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, SEATED NUDE WITH SCREEN, 1982 - 83

              Est: $500,000 - $700,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) SEATED NUDE WITH SCREEN, 1982 - 83 oil on canvas 130.0 x 97.0 cm signed and dated lower left: John Brack 1982/3 inscribed with title on artist's label attached verso: 'SEATED NUDE WITH SCREEN' PROVENANCE Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne Joan Clemenger AO and Peter Clemenger AO, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 1983 EXHIBITED John Brack, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 21 May - 11 June 1983, cat. 9 John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 10 December 1987 – 31 January 1988, cat. 105 The Nude in the Art of John Brack, McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, Victoria, 17 December 2006 – 25 March 2007, cat. 15 John Brack Retrospective, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 24 April – 9 August 2009 and touring to The Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2 October 2009 – 31 January 2010 (label attached verso) LITERATURE Lindsay, R.,  John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, pp. 73 (illus.), 134, 141 Grishin, S.,  The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 1, p. 160, vol. 2, cat. o275, pp. 36, 171 (illus.) Klepac, L., Australian Painters of the Twentieth Century, Beagle Press, Sydney, 2000, p. 168 (illus.) Lindsay, R.,  The Nude in the Art of John Brack, McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, Victoria, 2006 (illus., np) Grant, K.,  John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 187 (illus.), 225 ESSAY Like all artists of his generation, John Brack was well-versed in the history of Western art and it remained an essential touchstone throughout his career. A survey of his painting reveals references to significant historical works by artists as diverse as Boucher, Seurat and Buffet, which provided inspiration as he borrowed from earlier masters and challenge as he pitted himself against them. His iconic painting, The bar, 1954 (National Gallery of Victoria), for example, appropriates both the subject and composition of Édouard Manet’s famous depiction of A bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 (Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London). In Brack’s characteristic way however, the Post-Impressionist’s clever visual trick of depicting the scene in front of the barmaid reflected in a mirror is used to describe the subject as he witnessed it in 1950s Melbourne – a drab image of dour-faced workers who are urgently drinking their fill before the imminent early closing of the pub rather than the gay opulence of 1880s Paris.   Working within the traditional genres of painting, Brack explored the still-life, portraiture and the nude in his art. Landscape as a theme however, is largely absent from his oeuvre, and indeed, when his friend and fellow artist, Fred Williams, announced that he intended to make the Australian landscape the focus of his art, Brack was sceptical, doubting its relevance as a subject for contemporary painting. Always underlying Brack’s approach – and explaining his avoidance of landscape as a subject – was an enduring interest in the human condition. As he said, ‘What I paint most is what interests me most, that is, people; the Human Condition, in particular the effect on appearance of environment and behaviour… A large part of the motive… is the desire to understand, and if possible, to illuminate… My material is what lies nearest to hand, the people and the things I know best.’1 In the context of the nude, Brack described this focus on human nature in the following way: ‘When I paint a woman… I am not interested in how she looks sitting in the studio, but in how she looks at all times, in all lights, what she looked like before and what she is going to look like, what she thinks, hopes, believes, and dreams. The way the light falls and casts its shadows is merely… a hindrance unless it helps me to show these things.’2 Embarking on his first sustained series of paintings of the nude during the mid-1950s, Brack sought to test the development of his work through a return to the rigour and discipline of life drawing and placed an advertisement for a model in the newspaper. Questions about how he might make a new and meaningful contribution to the genre were answered by the single response he received, from a thin middle-aged woman whose appearance demanded a radically different approach that was far removed from the sensual nudes of earlier artists such as Rubens and Gauguin. Brack quickly realised that ‘there is absolutely nothing whatsoever erotic in an artist’s model unclothed in a suburban empty room’3, and produced a series of striking paintings including Nude in an armchair, 1957 (National Gallery of Victoria) and The bathroom, 1957 (National Gallery of Australia), that boldly challenged expectations of the subject.  While some lamented the skinny, sexless appearance of the model, art critic Alan McCulloch wrote that in pitting himself against tradition Brack had successfully demonstrated that ‘he [was] on all occasions master of the medium.’4 The nude returned as a major subject within Brack’s oeuvre during the 1970s and 80s and in these works a restrained sensuality and pleasure in depicting the female form is apparent. The contrast between the uncomfortable tension of the 1950s nudes and paintings like Seated nude with screen, 1982 – 83, where the subject looks out at the viewer completely at ease with her nakedness, seems to reflect the changes in social mores that had taken place in the intervening years and the increased informality of the late twentieth century. These differences might also point to the development of Brack’s own confidence and artistic maturity. In the mid-1950s he was at the beginning of his career with a handful of solo exhibitions to his name, still defining his visual language and establishing his artistic persona. In 1968, with the help of a monthly stipend from his Sydney dealer Rudy Komon, Brack had resigned from his position as Head of the National Gallery School in Melbourne and for the first time in his life was able to paint full-time. The ensuing decades witnessed regular solo exhibitions, private commissions, as well as other public affirmations of his art. Like all of the nudes from this time, Seated nude with screen was painted in Brack’s studio and features its distinctive timber floorboards and unadorned walls, as well as a Persian carpet, which is rendered in characteristically intricate detail. Helen Brack interprets these carpets as symbolising the world of men and in the context of images where the subject is always female, this has a particular relevance.5 In addition to highlighting what the artist perceived as the differences between the sexes, this pictorial device also illustrates the counterbalance they provide each other.6 In this painting, the centrally-placed figure is prominent within the composition, and the all-over pale tone of her bare skin contrasts with the dark colours and decorative detail of the carpet. Brack has also paid particular attention to the model’s hair, carefully describing its elaborate braiding and the bun that is neatly coiled on top of her head. The model’s clothing often features in these paintings, discarded and casually draped nearby. Here, the figure’s overcoat – presumably hanging on a hook which is attached to the folded screen in the background – assumes a strangely anthropomorphic character and suggests the presence of another figure in the room. What ultimately prevails in this painting however, is what Patrick McCaughey astutely described as Brack’s ‘paramount… sense of observed reality.’7 Joan and Peter Clemenger purchased this painting from Brack’s 1983 exhibition at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne and, apart from being displayed in several subsequent museum exhibitions – including both the 1987 and 2009 retrospectives at the National Gallery of Victoria – it has graced the walls of their home ever since.8 1. Brack, J., cited in Reed, J., New Painting 1952 – 62, Longman, Melbourne, 1963, p. 19 2. Brack, H., ‘This Oeuvre – The Work Itself’, in Grant, K., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009, p. 16 3. Brack, J., Interview, Australian Contemporary Art Archive, no. 1, Deakin University Media Production, 1980, transcript, p. 6 4. McCulloch, A., ‘Classical themes’, Herald, 13 November 1957, p. 29 5. See Lindsay, R., The Nude in the Art of John Brack, McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, 2007, n.p. 6. See Helen Brack cited in Gott, T., A Question of Balance: John Brack 1974 – 1994, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, 2000, p. 23 7. McCaughey, P., ‘The Complexity of John Brack’ in Lindsay, R., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 9 8. See Exhibition history noted above in the caption for this lot. KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 43 x 63cm; frame size: 73 x 91cm
              Aug. 03, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 43 x 63cm; frame size: 73 x 91cm

              Est: $2,600 - $3,600

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 43 x 63cm; frame size: 73 x 91cm PROVENANCE: Private collection, Melbourne

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Nude 1981 lithograph, ed. A/P 49 x 67cm
              Jul. 19, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Nude 1981 lithograph, ed. A/P 49 x 67cm

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Nude 1981 lithograph, ed. A/P signed and dated lower right: John Brack 81 titled lower centre editioned lower left 49 x 67cm PROVENANCE: Neil Leveson, Melbourne Thence by descent OTHER NOTES: Other impressions of this print are held in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. RELATED WORK: John Brack, Reclining Nude 1970, oil on canvas, 115 x 146.5cm, The Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. A/P 65 x 47.5cm
              Jul. 19, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. A/P 65 x 47.5cm

              Est: $2,000 - $3,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. A/P signed and dated lower right: John Brack 78 titled lower centre editioned lower left 65 x 47.5cm PROVENANCE: Neil Leveson, Melbourne Thence by descent OTHER NOTES: Another impression of this print is held in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 43 x 63cm
              Jul. 19, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 43 x 63cm

              Est: $3,000 - $4,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Double Nude 1982 (Double sided) lithograph, ed. 32/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 43 x 63cm PROVENANCE: Private collection, Melbourne

              Leonard Joel
            • CECIL JOHN BRACK - NUDE IN PROFILE 1978 - LITHOGRAPH
              May. 23, 2023

              CECIL JOHN BRACK - NUDE IN PROFILE 1978 - LITHOGRAPH

              Est: $2,500 - $3,500

              CECIL JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) NUDE IN PROFILE 1978 Signed, dated 78 and inscribed in margin Lithograph 64.5 x 47.5cm Estimate $2,500/3,500 AUD

              GFL Fine Art
            • Cecil John Brack, Australia (1920-1999), La Traviata 1981, Lithograph ed. 3/150
              May. 15, 2023

              Cecil John Brack, Australia (1920-1999), La Traviata 1981, Lithograph ed. 3/150

              Est: $3,000 - $5,000

              Cecil John Brack Australia (1920-1999) La Traviata 1981 Lithograph ed. 3/150 Signed, titled & dated lower margin ICI Australian Opera Collection

              Theodore Bruce
            • JOHN BRACK, ONE BALANCING GIRL, 1977
              May. 03, 2023

              JOHN BRACK, ONE BALANCING GIRL, 1977

              Est: $45,000 - $65,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) ONE BALANCING GIRL, 1977 watercolour, pen and ink on paper 66.0 x 48.0 cm 73.0 x 55.5 cm (sheet) signed and dated lower right: John Brack ‘77 inscribed with title on artist’s label verso: ONE BALANCING GIRL / MRS / BROOKS  PROVENANCE Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso) Pauline Brooks, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1978 Thence by descent Private collection, Sydney EXHIBITED John Brack, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, 27 May – 21 June 1978, cat. 14 LITERATURE Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. II, cat. P238, p. 67 Lindsay, R., John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 132 The First Gallery in Paddington: The Artists and their Work tell the Story of the Rudy Komon Art Gallery, Edwards & Shaw, Surry Hills, New South Wales, 1981, p. 14 (illus. installation) ESSAY The following excerpts are from Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. I, pp. 121 – 22: ‘The series of gymnasts… thematically presents a logical progression from the ballroom dancing series – the concern with senseless ritual as recreational activities are converted into difficult and testing labour. In its formal language, however, there are signs of a fundamental change. A constant preoccupation in Brack’s art is identity. This can be traced back to a youthful interest in books on physiognomy as well as a later study of Nigel Dennis’  Cards of Identity with its questions of ‘re-identification’ and ‘personal distinctiveness’ ... Up to this point, Brack’s images of still-life objects – scissors, knives and forks – were kept separate from figure compositions, although he did imbue these still life objects with a symbolic existence. In the gymnast series, the stick-like figures start to lose a little of their human identity and increasingly become formal elements that symbolically convey humanity as observed from a distance. The whole setting is reduced to a minimum – the featureless floors and walls of the gymnasium, with a few lines on the bare floorboards marking off the extent of the playing arena. They are very sparse compositions where the figures remain the dominant elements but no longer occupy most of the picture space. ‘The origins of the gymnast motif probably can be traced back to Brack’s observation of his own children when they were young, although when he commenced the series his youngest daughter was almost twenty and all the gymnasts in the first series are boys. Implied in this association is the artist's concern that angst is being pushed down onto our children: “... a series of pictures dealing with children doing gymnastic exercises, the idea here is related to balancing and falling, but not absolutely collapsing – you know, the world is going on in a series of stumbling lurches, but not absolutely collapsing... it is not the abyss, it is stumbling, but it is not the abyss.”1 ‘The series of gymnasts is largely preoccupied with exploring a number of premeditated ambiguities intended as a visual metaphor commenting on the complexity of life... there is statement about balance and imbalance, movement and stability, unity and discord, implying in the antinomical sense that at the moment of greatest balance there exists the greatest potential for imbalance, that ascent implies descent, and so forth. These slight, almost sexless figures cast against the naked floorboards are involved in part of a ritual as complex as life itself. Having attained for a brief moment a state of triumph, they hover as if frozen on the pinnacle of their success, precariously balancing, tottering on the brink of collapse without actually collapsing.’ 1.  John Brack on John Brack, Lecture, Australian National University, Canberra, 1977, p. 7 © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. 65/300
              Apr. 20, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. 65/300

              Est: $1,800 - $2,800

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph, ed. 65/300 signed, dated, titled and editioned below image 64 x 47cm (unframed) OTHER NOTES: PLEASE NOTE THIS WORK IS UNFRAMED.

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Seated Nude and Rug 1982
              Apr. 16, 2023

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Seated Nude and Rug 1982

              Est: $2,500 - $3,500

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude and Rug 1982 lithograph signed, dated and editioned on margin: John Brack 82 50/50 45 x 64.5cm

              Gibson's
            • § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 47/50
              Apr. 05, 2023

              § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 47/50

              Est: $3,000 - $4,000

              § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Seated Nude 1982 lithograph, ed. 47/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 43.5 x 29cm PROVENANCE: The Estate of Tate Adams Private collection, Melbourne

              Leonard Joel
            • § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Woman (Nude on the Bed) 1982 lithograph, ed. 11/50
              Apr. 05, 2023

              § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Woman (Nude on the Bed) 1982 lithograph, ed. 11/50

              Est: $3,000 - $4,000

              § JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Reclining Woman (Nude on the Bed) 1982 lithograph, ed. 11/50 signed and dated lower right: John Brack 82 editioned lower left 42.5 x 30cm PROVENANCE: The Estate of Tate Adams Private collection, Melbourne

              Leonard Joel
            • JOHN BRACK, UNTITLED SKETCH (NURSERY), 1962
              Dec. 01, 2022

              JOHN BRACK, UNTITLED SKETCH (NURSERY), 1962

              Est: $8,000 - $12,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) UNTITLED SKETCH (NURSERY), 1962 watercolour and ink on paper 47.0 x 17.5 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 62 PROVENANCE Private collection Lawson~Menzies, Sydney, 15 April 2003, lot 124 Private collection, Canberra

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, STUDY FOR NUDE WITH NIGHTGOWN, 1957
              Dec. 01, 2022

              JOHN BRACK, STUDY FOR NUDE WITH NIGHTGOWN, 1957

              Est: $20,000 - $30,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) STUDY FOR NUDE WITH NIGHTGOWN, 1957 conte on paper  48.5 x 33.0 cm (sight) signed and dated lower right: John Brack / 57 PROVENANCE Brian and Marjorie Johnstone, Brisbane Marjorie Johnstone, Brisbane, 1992 Private collection, Brisbane, a bequest from the above in 1994 EXHIBITED Exhibition by John Brack: Paintings and Drawings of the Nude, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 12 – 29 November 1957, cat. 19 John Brack, Johnstone Gallery, Brisbane, 26 April – 13 May 1960 LITERATURE Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 2, cat. p73, pp. 49, 202 (illus., as 'p67') RELATED WORK Nude with Nightgown, 1957, oil on canvas, 90.5 x 40.5 cm, private collection, sold Deutscher and Hackett, Sydney, 28 August 2018, lot 5

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Nude in Profile 1978
              Oct. 16, 2022

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999), Nude in Profile 1978

              Est: $2,000 - $4,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920-1999) Nude in Profile 1978 lithograph signed, dated, titled and editioned on margin: John Brack 78 Nude in Profile 108/300 64.5 x 47.5cm PROVENANCE The Borough Gallery, Melbourne Private collection, Bendigo

              Gibson's Auctions
            • JOHN BRACK, ELASTIC STOCKINGS, 1965
              Sep. 14, 2022

              JOHN BRACK, ELASTIC STOCKINGS, 1965

              Est: $300,000 - $400,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) ELASTIC STOCKINGS, 1965 oil on canvas 130.0 x 96.0 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 65 PROVENANCE The collection of the artist Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired from the above in 1996 EXHIBITED John Brack, Gallery A, Melbourne, 29 March – April 1965, cat. 6 John Brack, Gallery A, Sydney, 14 May 1965, cat. 4 John Brack and Fred Williams, Albert Hall, Canberra, 1 – 13 August 1967, cat. 7 John Brack: Selected Paintings 1947 – 1977, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 15 March – 1 April 1977, cat. 21 John Brack: Retrospective: paintings and drawings, Australian National University, Canberra, 21 September – 16 November 1977, cat. 26 John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 11 December 1987 – 31 January 1988, cat. 67 John Brack, Selected Paintings 1950s – 1990s, Geelong Art Gallery, Geelong, 15 June 1996, cat. 8 John Brack Retrospective, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 24 April – 9 August 2009; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2 October 2009 – 31 January 2010 (label attached verso) LITERATURE Brook, D., ‘Goths and venetians’, The Canberra Times, Canberra, 3 August 1967, p. 25 Millar, R., John Brack, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1971, pl. 6, pp. 25, 35 (illus.), 52, 108 Grishin, S., John Brack Retrospective: Paintings and Drawings, 1945 – 1977, Australian National University, Canberra, 1977, pl. 26 Lindsay, R., John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, pl. 67, pp. 55 (illus.), 122, 123, 130, 131, 140 Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. 1, pl. 26, pp. 97 (illus.), 99, vol. 2, cat. o145, pp. 20, 129 (illus.) Grant, K., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009, p. 138 (illus.) RELATED WORK Study for ‘Elastic Stockings’, 1964, watercolour, pen and ink on paper, 54.5 x 40.5 cm, private collection ESSAY John Brack was appointed head of the National Gallery School in Melbourne in 1962 and over the following six years, he transformed it into a serious training ground for professional artists. The demands of the job meant reduced painting time, but he maintained a studio behind his office, undertaking a number of private commissions, as well as being represented in important exhibitions including Australian Painting at London’s Tate Gallery (1963) and Australian Painters 1964 – 66: The Harold Mertz Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC (1967). These years also saw the creation of the shop-window paintings, a series in which his stated aim to produce pictures which ‘operate on numerous levels of meaning [and]… have some reference to the complexity of life’1 was successfully achieved. A number of Brack’s images relate to shops and shop window displays, and the first, made in 1955, depicts a display of commercial kitchen equipment he had seen at the top of Bourke Street in Melbourne. Simply titled, The Slicing Machine Shop, 1955 (private collection), it depicts gleaming meat slicers, measuring scales and giant mixers which assume threatening, anthropomorphic qualities belying their obviously inanimate status. Brack’s most concentrated series of shop window subjects emerged during the early 1960s, and this time, the windows featured in paintings such as Still Life with Self Portrait, 1963 (Art Gallery of South Australia) and The Happy Boy, 1964 (National Gallery of Australia) – the latter based on Roper’s medical supply shop in Swanston Street, Melbourne – displayed surgical instruments, prosthetic limbs and other medical aids. Bearing obvious associations with the human body, these objects enabled Brack to comment about life without depicting the figure, instead using subject matter that seemed to him, more appropriate for a contemporary artist.  Brack often found subjects walking the city streets and recorded the details of what he saw in quick sketches which were later used as aides memoire in the studio. Additional detail was sometimes provided by photographs taken by his friend Laurence Course, an art historian and keen photographer. Brack often incorporated his own reflection looking through the window, and the recognition that there were people inside the shop looking out, to add visual ambiguity and narrative complexity to these paintings. Summing this up, he said, ‘The exterior and the interior of the window become mixed up, they become a paradox… illustrative not simply of shop windows but of the whole aspect of life itself, so that people who pass by are entangled with the beautiful display, gleaming instruments… [which] have something to do with the props that hold people together.’2 The primary focus of Elastic Stockings, 1965 is an elaborate sign advertising said garments which dominates the top half of the image. The decorative, graphic qualities of the sign must have appealed to Brack, and luminous shades of yellow hint at the gold lettering of the original. Instead of depicting the window as he had encountered it, full of a myriad of practical items,3 his very singular vision and unique perspective of the world transformed what he saw, presenting a dramatic contrast between the showy signage and the lacklustre display of surgical instruments below. The result is humorous, but also somewhat melancholy. As he said, ‘What struck me is they had window displays [of surgical instruments] as you would display ladies’ dresses… to make them attractive… to attract… the passer by… to say ‘I will buy one’.4  This painting is classic Brack, exemplifying not only his great technical skill, but the distinctive intellectual ingenuity he brought to his art, and through which he created such a unique and significant place in the history of twentieth century Australian art. As Patrick McCaughey wrote, ‘His appeal is to the intelligence: to read what has been so clearly described. Yet behind the impersonal, unbroken surface lies a world which seethes with irony, ambiguity, where the normal is displaced or held in a different balance. The lucidity of Brack’s art, his subjects and his mode alike, do not disguise the complexity of his imagination.’5 1. John Brack interview, Australian Contemporary Art Archive, no. 1, Deakin University Media Production, 1980, transcript, p. 3 2. John Brack quoted in The Lively Arts: John Brack, ABC-TV documentary 3. See photograph by Laurence Course in Grant, K., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009, p. 139 4. John Brack, Deakin University interview, op. cit., p. 6 5. McCaughey, P., ‘The Complexity of John Brack’ in Lindsay, R., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 8 KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • JOHN BRACK, POSIES, 1990
              Sep. 14, 2022

              JOHN BRACK, POSIES, 1990

              Est: $600,000 - $800,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) POSIES, 1990 oil on canvas 137.0 x 106.5 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack / 1990 inscribed with title on artist's label verso: POSIES PROVENANCE Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso) Joan Clemenger AO and Peter Clemenger AO, Melbourne, acquired from the above in September 1991 ESSAY John Brack’s motivation for painting remained consistent throughout his career. In 1956, following the National Gallery of Victoria’s purchase of Collins St, 5p.m., 1955, he wrote to Eric Westbrook, the gallery’s director, explaining, ‘One either has a subject, or one has not… If I choose to paint the life I see around me, it is because I find people more interesting than things.’1 Finding subject matter in his immediate surroundings, Brack satisfied this intense interest in people, and paintings such as The New House, 1953 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and The Bar, 1954 (National Gallery of Victoria) still stand as acute observations of modern Australian life. While the clothing, hairstyles, interiors and other accoutrements of mid-century suburban life imbue these paintings with a strong sense of nostalgia, it is what they reveal about human behaviour and its inevitability, irrespective of the era, that is most compelling. It is this element which also provides the thematic link between Brack’s figurative paintings of the 1950s and 60s and his later works. From the early 1970s on, the human figure disappeared from his paintings almost entirely, replaced by inanimate objects – museum postcards, umbrellas, pencils, playing cards and wooden artists’ manikins, among others – which were combined with various domestic props to construct subtle visual metaphors. As Sasha Grishin wrote, ‘Brack’s new approach [permitted] him to express the whole complexity of social interconnections’2 and his perspective on the perennial forces of human nature was transformed from one that was local to a broader more universal view.    Produced in Brack’s studio, the late paintings were the result of intense preparation and a meticulous technique. He would set up elaborate tableaux, using fishing line and tape to suspend props when necessary, and create a model from which a detailed preparatory drawing was then made. He also used fine brushes and glazes to minimise the appearance of brushstrokes and heighten the sense of pictorial realism in these works, the aim being to engage viewers so that they could focus on the meaning of his imagery rather than being distracted by expressive painterly bravura.3 A dark, irregular border surrounding these scenes also became a familiar element of the late works. Highlighting the illusionistic nature of painting, as well as Brack’s remarkable skill, it also points to the possibility of other realities. As Helen Brack observed, ‘The margins here are very important, because they are about the dark past, other ages. He was extremely interested in how you can use structure to say what you want to say.’4 Painted in 1990, Posies came towards the end of Brack’s career. He turned seventy that year and would stop painting altogether four years later. Many of the works made at this time show the artist reflecting on his life as well as looking forward. ‘John was getting older, and so he was starting to think of the future – not his future but the future. And when the 1980s came (and it did synchronise with grandchildren coming) there was a realising that it was the same again – we’d very much seen this, been there. That was the beginning of his making an image for perpetuation … There is an optimism at the end of John’s life that wasn’t there earlier.’5 The floral subject and joyous colours of this picture create an air of celebration which is also present in related contemporary paintings such as Watching the Flowers, 1991 and Six Bouquets, 1991 (both private collection). Unlike the floral still-lives Brack had painted during the late 1950s, which depicted cut flowers in vases – carnations, gerberas and solandra – just as you might find them in a mid-century suburban home, the domestic setting here is artificial, carefully constructed like a stage set which deliberately emphasises some details and omits others. Although cool and restrained, the flecked carpet and subdued striped wallpaper of this environment clearly connects to notions of home. More importantly, it also connects to family, a theme which was particularly prominent in Brack’s work during these years. The articulated wooden hands often stand in for people in these late paintings and in this image, it is possible to see them as representing Brack and his wife, Helen – the central pair holding the larger posies – surrounded by their four daughters. The variations between the posies subtly distinguish between the generations – larger bouquets and more varied flowers symbolising the age and experience of the parents, for example – as well as between each individual. In the same way, the similarities between each posy simultaneously reflect the immutable biological connection that unites them. A still life. A family portrait. A floral tribute.  John Brack has long been recognised as a towering figure within twentieth century Australian art, one of the few artists of his generation who addressed the reality of life as it was lived in the cities and the suburbs. As Patrick McCaughey observed however, ‘even if he may look direct, accessible and easy to read… the imagery retains an ambiguous and enigmatic quality. Paintings infer hidden meanings; references just beyond the grasp or consciousness of the viewer.’6 A still life then, is more than just a still life. In Brack’s hands, they ‘offer an alternative route. They give back to painting the richness and ambiguity of metaphor. The paintings and their images stand for more than their literal presence.’7  1. Brack to Eric Westbrook, 15 April 1956, National Gallery of Victoria Artist File 2. Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, p. 140 3. Ibid., p. 132 4. Brack, H., quoted in Gott, T., A Question of Balance: John Brack 1974 – 1994, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, 2000, p. 11 5. Ibid., p. 34 6. McCaughey, P., ‘The Complexity of John Brack’ in Lindsay, R., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 7 7. Ibid., p. 9 KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
            • John Brack, Australia , Nude & A Chinese Screen, Lithograph
              Sep. 04, 2022

              John Brack, Australia , Nude & A Chinese Screen, Lithograph

              Est: $400 - $600

              John Brack Australia Nude & A Chinese Screen Lithograph Signed lower right

              Theodore Bruce
            • JOHN BRACK, THREE EGYPTIAN WOMEN, 1975
              Jul. 27, 2022

              JOHN BRACK, THREE EGYPTIAN WOMEN, 1975

              Est: $100,000 - $150,000

              JOHN BRACK (1920 - 1999) THREE EGYPTIAN WOMEN, 1975 oil on canvas 91.5 x 71.0 cm signed and dated lower right: John Brack 1975 inscribed with title on artist’s label verso: Three Egyptian Women  bears inscription verso: 9  PROVENANCE Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney Private collection Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney Private collection  Christie’s, Melbourne, 11 April 1990, lot 163  The Cbus Collection of Australian Art, Melbourne, acquired from the above  EXHIBITED John Brack: Paintings and Drawings, Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney, 13 – 31 December 1975, cat. 9 on long term loan to Newcastle Art Gallery, New South Wales, prior to 2006 on long term loan to Latrobe Regional Gallery, Victoria  LITERATURE Lindsay, R., John Brack: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 129  Grishin, S. The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1990, vol. l, p. 135; vol. ll, cat. o234, p. 31  Nainby, B., Stanhope, Z., and Furlonger, K., The Cbus Collection of Australian Art, in association with Latrobe Regional Gallery, Melbourne, 2009, pp. 119 (illus.), 214 ESSAY John Brack resigned from his position as head of the Melbourne National Gallery School at the end of 1968. With the promise of a monthly stipend (to be offset against annual sales) from the Sydney art dealer, Rudy Komon, he had the freedom to paint full-time and soon constructed a purpose-built studio at home. Brack’s first commercial exhibition with Komon was held in 1970 and the following year, he was awarded the Travelodge Art Prize. Also in 1971, a monograph by Ronald Millar was published, a further reflection of the significant place Brack and his painting now held in contemporary Australian art.  In late 1973, Brack and his wife, Helen, left Australia for the first time. With plans to travel in England and Europe for two months, Brack painstakingly planned their itinerary, ‘down to the specifics of street maps and detailing individual paintings that would form cultural targets.’1 While the experience of visiting great historical cities and seeing works of art known up until then only in reproduction left Helen buoyant, John however was overwhelmed by the loss of control he felt in such unfamiliar surroundings.2 It took some time for the impact of Brack’s travels to emerge in his art, but when it did, a year or so later, his audience was confounded. The social commentary that had been such a consistent feature of his work was gone, as was the human figure. These elements were now replaced with precarious arrangements of cutlery, pencils and postcards depicting artworks and artefacts from ancient cultures, carefully reproduced in paint. Sandra McGrath typified the cool response of many to this new imagery, writing in the Australian newspaper that ‘Brack’s work celebrates an intellectual rather than an emotional approach to life and art. It’s a unique vision and puts him outside the mainstream of Australian art.’3  Titled the Unstill Life series, these paintings were the result of intense preparation and a meticulous technique. Setting up elaborate tableaux in his studio – using fishing line and tape to suspend actual cutlery, postcards and other items to create a model from which he would make a detailed preparatory drawing – Brack also used fine brushes and glazes to minimise the appearance of brushstrokes and heighten the sense of pictorial realism. His aim was to engage viewers by these means, so that they could focus on the meaning of his imagery rather than being distracted by painterly bravura.4 Here, a complex arrangement of knives, forks and spoons supports a trio of museum postcards featuring the three Egyptian women of the title – a highly-coloured painting, a headless sculpture and a ceramic fragment depicting a figure in a dramatic gymnastic pose. The dark, irregular border surrounding the scene became a familiar element of the late works, highlighting the illusionistic nature of painting and pointing to the possibility of other realities; to something beyond the surface. As Helen Brack observed, ‘The margins here are very important, because they are about the dark past, other ages. He was extremely interested in how you can use structure to say what you want to say.’5 While the intended meaning is open to interpretation, the focus on female subjects is significant – a husband and father of three daughters, Brack was surrounded by women. As Sasha Grishin has noted, this and other related postcard paintings also explore notions of artistic authenticity, as well as stability and permanence, both in relation to art and society.6 These paintings weren’t entirely without precedent in Brack’s oeuvre – familiar, everyday objects such as cutlery and scissors had been prominent in earlier works such as Knives and Forks, 1958 (private collection) and the shop window paintings of the early 1960s. Similarly, images of works of art had been incorporated into 1950s paintings such as The New House, 1953 (Art Gallery of New South Wales), where the Van Gogh reproduction hanging on the lounge room wall alludes to the social and cultural aspirations of the home’s young owners.7 Brack always used complex symbolism to imbue his imagery with meaning – aiming to make ‘some sort of comment, but … never the sort of comment that could be put into words’8 – and his focus was inevitably the flaws and foibles of human behaviour.  In the late paintings Brack’s perspective expanded beyond the suburbs and the everyday, to the universal. As Patrick McCaughey eloquently concluded, ‘The strategy of these paintings is clear; here the still life goes beyond the observed and the daily and passes into the life of metaphor… John Brack, the master of the studio… transforms himself from the classicist whose forms are drawn from the experience of the world to the allegorical fabulist. The still life enables him to ruminate and reflect on ideas and arguments beyond the scope of observed appearance. Brack becomes a ‘modern history painter’, able to take on the largest speculations pictorially through the humble genre of the studio still life.’9 1. Gott, T., A Question of Balance: John Brack 1974 – 1994, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, 2000, p. 4 2. Ibid., pp.4 and 6 3. McGrath, S., ‘Brack’s unique vision’, The Australian, 27 December 1975 quoted in Gott, ibid., p.8 4. Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, p. 132 5. Brack, H., quoted in Gott, op. cit., p. 11 6. See Grishin, op. cit., pp. 133 and 135 7. Ibid., p. 132 8. Brack, J., speaking in the Lively Arts: John Brack, ABC-TV documentary, Melbourne, 1965, directed by Tony Morphett 9. McCaughey, P., ‘The Complexity of John Brack’ in Lindsay, R., John Brack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 9 KIRSTY GRANT © courtesy of Helen Brack

              Deutscher and Hackett
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