Important Australian + International Fine Art
6 May 2015


(1899 - 1961)

oil on pulpboard

41.5 x 50.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: H BADHAM '44

$90,000 - 120,000
Sold for $456,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 39 - 6 May 2015, Melbourne

Georgina Farquhar, Sydney
A gift to her sister, Elizabeth Mackay, Sydney
Thence by descent
M.E.K. Adams, Sydney
Thence by descent
Private collection, Sydney


Society of Artists Annual Exhibition, Sydney, 1944, cat. 86
Herbert Badham, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, August – September 1979, cat. 9
Aspects of Australian Figurative Painting 1942 – 1962: Dreams, Fears and Desires, 5th Biennale of Sydney, S.H. Ervin Gallery (National Trust), Sydney, 11 April – 17 June 1984, cat. 8
Herbert Badham (Retrospective Exhibition), Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales, 27 August – 4 October, 1987; S.H. Ervin Gallery (National Trust), Sydney, 10 October – 15 November 1987, cat. 53
Bluey & Curley: Portraits from an Era 1939–55, Ipswich Art Gallery, Queensland, 8 April – 18 June 2000; Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 31 July – 3 August 2000, cat.1


Society of Artists Book 1944, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1944, p.13 (illus.)
Dixon, C., and Smith, T., Aspects of Australian Figurative Painting 1942 – 1962: Dreams, Fears and Desires, Power Institute of Fine Arts, Sydney, in association with the Biennale of Sydney, 1984, cat. 8, pp. 2, 27, 91 (illus. frontispiece, p. 2)
Dixon, C., and France, C., Herbert Badham 1899 – 1961 (Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue), Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales, 1987, p. 24, cat. 26
Bluey & Curley: Portraits from an Era 1939 – 55, Global Arts Link, Queensland, in association with Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2000, p. 26
Nowra, L., Kings Cross: A Biography, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2013, p. 288

Catalogue text

After decades of neglect, Herbert Badham has been rediscovered as a major figure in Australian art. Born in Watsons Bay, Sydney, just before the end of the 19th century, he left school and became a clerk before joining the Royal Australian Navy in 1917. He began art studies at the Sydney Art School in 1921, joining contemporaries William Dobell, Douglas Dundas and Charles Meere. The discipline of his early career and naval service suggests a methodical mind and a need for order, draughtsmanship and planning. His work reflected those values in structured figure compositions strongly influenced by English realism. Depicting the life of urban Sydney with keen observation and wry good humour, he chose subjects from the everyday world of the shop, the street and the bar-room.

Herbert Badham taught at East Sydney Technical College from 1938 and remained there until his death in 1961. He imparted to his students his interest in design, formal composition and structure, elements that gradually fell from favour in the wide adoption of expressionism and abstraction. There were hints of social realism in his subjects and anecdotal reporting of ordinary life, but with little political edge or reforming zeal in his quirky depictions of the everyday. His subjects are calm, open, direct and comfortable in their surroundings. A portrait of his wife at the breakfast table, acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1936, is an enduring image of the quiet good life. Even when depicting everyday life in wartime Sydney, Badham was happy to show that, despite restrictions and rationing, life went on.

Snack Bar is a classic of Badham's style and shows his fascination with groups of people in ordinary situations. In a remarkably modest space, he has presented some fourteen recognisable figures, each clearly portrayed as a type and an individual. Visiting American servicemen and women are at home in the Hasty Tasty snack bar in Kings Cross, sitting happily among the mixed bunch of Aussies from 'civvy street'. Badham does provide gentle social comment, with a black American GI keeping close company with a local girl, while the well-satisfied businessmen happily hoe into the simple fare. Rationing might have been in force, but nobody goes hungry in the Hasty Tasty. The venue itself was woven into the rich tapestry of Sydney life - from its hosting of the nation's first AA meetings to its cameo role in They're a Weird Mob, the doors never closed on the denizens of the Cross. The colour is elegant and restrained, symbolic perhaps of the straightened circumstances of war, in a part of the city thronging with servicemen on leave from the Naval dockyards at the bottom of the hill. Snack Bar featured in the Badham retrospective mounted by the S.H Ervin Gallery, Sydney in 1987 and stands alongside the record-breaking Travellers as a major work in his oeuvre.