On his departure for Europe in October 1947 Albert Tucker famously observed: ‘I am a refugee from Australia culture.’ Disenchanted with the conservatism of the local art scene, he joined the postwar exodus of artists hungry for firsthand experience of European art—past and present—which had been inaccessible during the years of world conflict.
Tucker planned to spend twelve months abroad engaging directly with international art and culture. The one year extended into thirteen—amounting to a sustained and transformative period of dedicated artistic experimentation and development. After an abortive start in London, he made Paris his first base and soaked up the atmosphere while investigating the formal and technical advancements in the modern art all around him: Cubism, Art Brut, and Expressionism each informed his new work. Extended periods in Germany and Italy followed, with further artistic discoveries, then a more successful time in London in 1957. His final two years away were spent in New York, where he mixed with the beatnik generation and experimented with abstraction.
Tucker’s expatriate experience also registered a fundamental shift in personal perspective. In 1947 he was painting raw expressionist, polemical imagery that strongly critiqued Australian society and culture. In 1960, when he returned to Melbourne, he had a deeper appreciation for his homeland, its landscape, history and inhabitants, and a refreshed, life-affirming vision. His homecoming, with six solo and sixteen group exhibitions to his name, and sales to New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, was triumphant.
This exhibition presents major paintings from Tucker’s travels in England, Europe and America, complemented by a selection of his compelling photographs. It traces the trajectory of Tucker’s rising star and reveals pivotal aspects of his aesthetic development while on a path to becoming one of Australia’s most individual and important artists.