Artists at LeisureAlbert Tucker Photographs
This exhibition shows artists from the Heide circle enjoying days at the beach, meals with friends, and other leisurely activities, through the eyes of Albert Tucker (1914–1999), who photographed the people and places around him as a personal record. Some photographs reveal various leisure pursuits Tucker himself enjoyed, typically of a theatrical nature—wrestling matches, dances, soapbox speeches, and plays. In one of many images he took of May Day marches, protestors fight to save workers’ Friday nights for leisure time. Then, as now, its importance in relation to the needs of the workplace was a subject of contention.
Aptly described as the ‘accidental historian’ of the Heide circle and other artist communities in the late 1930s to mid-1940s in Melbourne, Tucker’s natural approach using available light lends itself particularly well to capturing unselfconscious moments. And the drama of the wrestling ring, gymnastic exploits and passionate protests are well-served by his keen eye for composition and dramatic use of light and shade.
Tucker’s photographs also reveal, more subtly, that an artist is rarely idle. The product of a restless desire to observe and document his surroundings, they demonstrate a likely detachment from full participation in leisure pursuits. Some of his later colour photographs taken at the beach at Aspendale, where the Reeds had their holiday house, record scenes that became the subject of later paintings, several of which are also on display.
Along with beachside holidays and occasions at Heide and other Melbourne sites, Tucker captured social and cultural occasions such as performances of the New Theatre, Wirth’s Circus and Tivoli, the Yarra bank speakers’ forum and legendary showman–wrestler Chief Little Wolf.