The Twenty Melbourne Painters Society
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TWENTY MELBOURNE PAINTERS SOCIETY INC., Est 1918
TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE THAT BEGAN WITH ARTISTIC REBELLION.
Boston, Florence, London and Melbourne have long been considered leaders in the world of traditional art. How very fitting then that the venerable Twenty Melbourne Painters Society, stronghold of traditional values in art, is alive and flourishing.
Now, before anybody confuses tradition with staid and conventional, it must be known that this is a Society where passions have run high, where belief in artistic principles still makes a stand.
The group first began after the tumultuous annual Presidential election of the Victorian Artists Society in 1918. After his defeat, incensed Max Meldrum supporters called a special meeting to debate the issue. Angry words aroused the opposition leader’s wife so much that she swiped one of the ‘Meldrumites’ with her umbrella. And this in an age when etiquette ruled all! Newspapers were full of the story at the time, but what followed made Australian art history.
The Meldrum supporters split from the Victorian Artists Society and immediately regrouped at his studio in Hardware Chambers, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. With plenty of impassioned principles and similar ideas on painting, they formed their own exhibiting group, calling themselves ‘The Society of Twenty Melbourne Painters’. Less than a year later in 1919, the breakaway group held their first exhibition. At a later date in their history, the name of the society changed to ‘The Twenty Melbourne Painters Society’, as we know it today. Their determination in founding and consequent loyalty to the group ensured its success. Since that turbulent beginning the group has maintained its identity, though affairs with the ‘Vics’ became peaceful again to the point where the group of twenty held their annual exhibitions in the historic Victorian Artists Society premises in Albert Street, East Melbourne. Rivalry became a thing of the past.
While members of the society have always been skilled artists, some reached an almost ‘star’ status among the wider community. Sir William Dargie C.B.E., O.B.E., painted the famous ‘Wattle’ portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during six two-hour sittings at Buckingham Palace in 1954. Reproductions of this well-known portrait hang in many public institutions; the original is in Parliament House, Canberra.
Another name from the society’s past still very relevant today is Alice Bale. Miss A.M.E. Bale, one of the original breakaway members, held the position of Secretary until her death. Her ‘Will’ included a bequest which established a scholarship bearing her name and encouraging representational art. The Alice Bale Art Award is today considered a highly prestigious prize, perhaps the most esteemed in representational painting in Australia, which confers not only honour and recognition upon the recipient. The award includes a Travelling Scholarship which enables Australian artists to study the works of the Old Masters abroad. The judging held biennially, of the A.M.E. Bale Travelling Scholarship and associated prizes for oil and watercolour, is the allotted task of the Twenty Melbourne Painters Society. It is a responsibility taken seriously, with up to three days consideration on the selection and judging of submitted works.
Other highly respected names from the group’s history include Reshid Bey, Ernest Buckmaster, Rupert Bunny, Ron Crawford, William Frater O.B.E., Harold Herbert, Sir John Longstaff, and Clarice Beckett. There are others too numerous to mention who have all been an important part of the Australian artistic community.
Despite the emphasis on tradition, it is important not to align The Twenty Melbourne Painters Society with strict adherence to a particular style of painting. The tradition is for quality: that the group supports high standards of craftsmanship within the framework of representational painting, that they consolidate and improve the quality of traditional art, and that they promote fellowship among painters in the community. In nurturing high standards of work through professional painting, teaching and judging, they ensure that these qualities are passed on to current and future artists.
The framework of representational art encompasses a realism that depicts with dignity and respect for the subject, the exquisite detail in the pottery and cloth of a still life, as well as vibrant impressionistic works where the exhilaration of a vast panorama may be shown with seemingly casual strokes of a brush.
Few artistic societies last as long, or have been as consistent with their aims as the Twenty Melbourne Painters. Any society with an 94 year history can feel justifiably proud of its existence. It also has a rare exclusivity, as membership of the Twenty Melbourne Painters is by invitation only. When a position becomes available through resignation or natural attrition, a painstaking search is undertaken to find a suitable painter to be invited to fill the vacancy. Artists feel honoured to be invited, and members feel privileged to be part of a group so recognised within the Australian art world.
This year, the 95th Annual Exhibition of The Twenty Melbourne Painters will again be organised by Jenny Pihan Fine Art. As consultant to many art shows and curator of her own gallery with its history of numerous successful exhibitions, Jenny brings unique skills to this task.
With many of the Society’s members being key figures in the winning of awards, in teaching, and in successful solo exhibitions, much of the work at their annual exhibitions is regarded as highly collectable. This year’s exhibition will be no exception.
The exhibition will be a gathering of some of the finest new representational art in Australia today. Current members of the Society are: Angela Abbott, Greg Allen, June Barnett, Bill Caldwell, Margaret Cowling, Stephen Doyle, John Dudley, Amanda Hyatt, Lee Machelak, Barbara McCallum, Paul McDonald-Smith OAM, Ross Paterson, Herman Pekel, Clive Sinclair, Peter Smales, David Taylor, Maxwell Wilks, Judith Wills, and Joseph Zbukvic.
With works painted especially for this exhibition, viewers will be able to enjoy scintillating variety. There will be excitement visible in the Herman Pekel flourish of the brush as he interprets a landscape or interior, or in contemporary flair transforming a traditional landscape, by Maxwell Wilks, created with the touch of his hand, as well as a brush. Lee Machelak may show us the visual truth of simple objects, revealing their character and intrinsic beauty as if seen during meditation.
Reality will be simplified by Clive Sinclair to an elegant abstraction of shape and colour, brushwork broad and expressive. The calligraphic brush strokes in Peter Smales’ oils are like musical notes, individual entities which together form unforgettable art, while the smooth washes of David Taylor’s watercolours are testament to his mastery of the medium.
Greg Allen is able to convince us of the solidity of flesh or the atmospheric nature of a cloud in watercolour, while Joseph Zbukvic shows us how to look towards the light to see beauty everywhere.
Art Walk Talks 2013- TBA
Twenty Melbourne Painters Society Inc.
'The tradition continues'
Opening Night: Tuesday 16 July - doors open at 6.30pm
Glen Eira City Council Gallery, Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.
Exhibition open 10am - 5pm 17 July - 4 August, 2013
For further information on this special event, call Jenny Pihan Fine Art (03) 9598 9588 or Mobile 0417 368 807 / 0419 879 725