Important Australian + International Fine Art
28 April 2010

Charles Blackman

born 1928

oil on canvas

84.0 x 84.0 cm

signed lower right: BLACKMAN

$60,000 - 80,000
Sold for $78,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 14 - 28 April 2010, Melbourne

Art Galleries Schubert, Queensland (label attached verso)
Private collection, Queensland

Catalogue text

Charles Blackman's paintings of women with flowers are among his best works. Blending, as they do, the beautiful with the enigmatic, they are invitingly lyrical and captivating in their colour and imagery. Initially inspired by his first wife Barbara's encroaching blindness, most capture moments of great sensitivity and poignant beauty. Other early influences included images of schoolgirls in isolation and the following Alice series with its abundant flowers from the garden of Wonderland. The brilliant colour-burst of flowers became a leitmotif in many paintings over the succeeding years. In his 1989 biography of Blackman, Thomas Shapcott hailed these as becoming 'his most celebrated series of paintings and perhaps still are', describing the motif 'as a long series of inventions on a theme capable of infinite variety within the form.'1 The single figure of the girl or woman was often set in primary fields of red, blue, or yellow. In The Bouquet it is the red that gives the painting its special richness. Within this setting the figure provides the deeper note, of dark blues morphing into mauves of quietude, as transient as dusk. Blackman is a master in the use of colour for its emotional impact. In this painting, he combines colours with imagery to engage all the senses. First, this wider sensitivity is heightened by the closed eyes, the absence of sight emphasising a greater reliance on smell and touch. The girl's head inclined towards the flowers recalls their perfume; and the prominence of her hand speaks of their soft textures. There is likewise an allusion to music, the allied transience of the nocturne. Moreover, the large hat is suggestive of a halo, in harmony with the devotional expression on the face, raising all to the level of an icon - to beauty. It is by such means, with his concentration on the face, that Blackman explores and reveals the inner being. As a very personal world, it is utterly enchanting.

Blackman's major contribution to the historic 1959 exhibition, The Antipodeans, included such similar significant paintings as Blue Girl and Flowers, Tryst, and The Bouquet. What Bernard Smith wrote about them at that time is equally applicable to The Bouquet. 'It is no simple matter to define the peculiar appeal of his strange presences. They are like dreams that break off or are only half-remembered '...the deep questioning of eyes in shy faces, the pleasures of simple things, like a bunch of flowers...'2

1. Shapcott, T., The Art of Charles Blackman, André Deutsch, London, 1989, p. 28
2. Smith, B., 'The Antipodeans', Australia To-day, Melbourne, 14 October 1959, p. 104