PEARS, 1957

Important Australian + International Fine Art
30 April 2014


(1920 - 1999)
PEARS, 1957

oil on canvas

31.0 x 52.5 cm

signed lower right: John Brack

$90,000 - 120,000
Sold for $162,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 35 - 30 April 2014, Melbourne

Australian Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in May 1957
Thence by descent
Private collection, Melbourne


Group Exhibition, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 10-24 April 1957


Grishin, S., The Art of John Brack, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990, vol. II, cat. o64, pp. 10, 101 (illus.)

Catalogue text

In the hands of a master, a still life painting becomes something fascinating. Think of the modern achievements of Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso or Giorgio Morandi, or look back to Caravaggio, and the seventeenth century Dutch painters of extravaganzas who made visual feasts out of fruit and other such gastronomic delights. When we turn to John Brack, he marries the brilliant line of fascination with the sharpness of his intellectual curiosity and Pears is the faultless result. The sharpness of eye and mind are translated into images of like acuity. The linear eloquence of this painting, and of all Brack's work, is unique in Australian art. And at times he adds an awkwardness of angles to give it further edge. As in Pears, his paintings and prints are so talkative, even if still and silent. There is, of course, what we like to call 'body language', the way in which forms, gestures, and colours express ideas. They communicate on another level. Among the red pears, one is upright, one leans left, another right, while the big green pear is more isolated, with a left inclination. The shelf they sit upon is otherwise bare, the wall behind pleasantly painterly. Thoughts of somebody departing, or a mere capriccio tantalizing the viewer's participation?

In the mid-fifties, isolated objects began to appear in his art with the bland titles of The Hair Brush, 1955 and The Pot Plant, 1957. Two group shows at the Australian Galleries, Melbourne in March and May of 1957 saw Carnations; Lavender and Sweet William; and Gerberas making their debuts. Pears made its appearance in the latter. Then, in November, The Boucher Nude, 1957 became a highlight of his solo show, radically turning the erotic on its head. It marked the year as one of extraordinary achievement, especially in the mastery of the spartan effect, developed through the study of still life and the intensity of his realization. It is the sheer matter-of-factness of Brack's art that makes it so arresting and telling. What could be more so than the subject of one his greatest early works, Collins Street, 5 p.m., 1955, (in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) painted two years before. It's the rush at the end of the day's work. But what could be more still, more fixed in its place! It is another version of still life, chock full of meaning, satirical and otherwise. Even the colours lack a feeling of movement - respectably brown, grey, jaundiced and inert. Pears are people on a shelf, with as much character and variation as those with fixed faces as they cavalcade along Collins Street " perhaps a bit more colourful.