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What they did then

WORDS: MR PAUL MISHURA – ARCHIVIST

In keeping with the ‘visual arts and design’ theme of this edition of Great Scot, ‘What they did then’ looks back at some of Scotch’s more artistic Old Boys.

The first boy enrolled at Melbourne Grammar School, on 7 April 1858, was Scotch boy Edward a’Beckett (1844-1932, SC 1852-58). He was the son of artist Thomas Turner a’Beckett. Edward studied at the Royal College of Art and exhibited at the Victorian Academy of Arts (1877-82). Known for his portrait paintings, he also worked in England.

An exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1877 to 1897 was Charles Gregory (1849-1920; SC 1860). Specialising in historical and genre subjects, he attended Royal Academy schools. Beginning with producing black and white illustrations for newspapers, books and magazines, he painted in oils, but focused on watercolours after his 1885 election to the Royal Watercolour Society. After moving to Surrey in 1892 he painted many riverside and woodland walks.

William Alfred Clarson (1852-?, SC 1865-66) was an oil painter and an artist for the Illustrated Sydney News. In 1880 he was inaugural secretary of the Art Society of New South Wales (later the Royal Art Society). In 1881 Clarson was lost in the Queensland bush for weeks before his father found him. Sent to trial for bigamy in 1882, there is no confirmed trace of him after 1888.

Scotch’s most famous 19th century artist was probably Charles Douglas Richardson (1853-1932, SC 1864-65). He exhibited at the Victorian Academy of the Arts (1877-81), completed lithographs for the Australian Pictorial Almanac (1880) and entered London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 1881, winning prizes for design and sculpture in 1883 and 1884. In 1885 he exhibited The Passing of Arthur and the sculpture The Wheelwright at the Royal Academy. Exhibiting at the Victorian Artists’ Society in 1889, he directed life classes and exhibited paintings and sculptures there (1890-97). With others he founded the Yarra Sculptors’ Society and with his wife he created the Capitol Theatre’s bas-relief, The Dance of the Hours in its foyer. Richardson created several war memorials and commemorative medals.

Another member of the Victorian Artists’ Society (VAS) was Theodore Brook Hansen (1870-45; SC 1883). He studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne and was known primarily for his landscape paintings in oil. He exhibited at the VAS, at the Salon in Paris, and at London.

John Cameron Gordon (1872-1911; SC 1883-87) was a renowned theatre scene painter for J C Williamson.

A graduate of the National Gallery School (Melbourne) and Guilds South London Technical Art School was Horace Ascher Brodzky (1885-1969; SC 1899). Horace was a poster artist for the American Red Cross in World War I and edited New York art journals. Later prominent in modern art movements, in the early 1930s he predated Picasso and Matisse with his single-line pen drawings using plain steel nibs.

An early Australian cartoonist was Frederick Collis (1887-1952, SC 1889-1901). Variously known as ‘Ted’, ‘Fredrick’, ‘Dunno’, ‘Det Selloc’, ‘Kolles’ and ‘Gussie Gumboil’, he was active from about 1908 until the early 1930s. He contributed cartoons to the Bulletin and Comic Australian, often collaborating with Norman Lindsay. Collis served at Gallipoli and in France, and was one of three combatant artists at Gallipoli. He provided critically-praised artwork for C E W Bean’s highly successful The Anzac Book. Postwar he contributed art to a wide array of publications and was noted for his humour, perhaps aided by also being a journalist. Collis provided much assistance to the creator of Ginger Meggs.

Known in England as ‘Eric Stone’ was Eric Francis Richard Balderson (1889-1916; SC 1900-03), who became renowned as a lightning sketch artist and caricaturist in vaudeville. He was killed in action in France on 28 March 1916.

Stained glass artist William Henry Mathieson (1897-1961, SC 1913-15) worked in the stained glass firm of Mathieson & Gibson. The firm made the stained glass windows in the eastern wall of the Littlejohn Memorial Chapel and most of the stained glass windows in the Memorial Hall.

Alastair Cameron Gray (1898-1972, SC 1912-17) was primarily a watercolour artist who also painted in oils. He was secretary of the Victorian Artists’ Society in 1958. Gray’s paintings were exhibited around the world and are held in numerous national galleries.

An official war artist for the AIF in World War II was Vaughan Murray Griffin (1903-92, SC 1916-19). He became a prisoner of war with the fall of Singapore, and as a prisoner in Changi he recorded the horrors of its daily life, both within the bounds of the strict censorship that was applied, and also outside them, in secret, risking his life. His art was carefully concealed and retrieved after the war, with at least 244 examples held in the Australian War Memorial. Griffin earlier taught Art at Scotch (1936-37) and Melbourne Technical College (1936-40), and became drawing master at the National Gallery (1946-53). He won the Crouch Prize (1935) and the F E Richardson Prize (1939).

John Vickery (1906-83, SC 1918-21) was an exponent of optical paintings (op art) which were more popular in the USA than in Australia, whose shores he left for the US in 1939. Op art became particularly popular in the 1960s, which is when Vickery’s paintings in acrylic began achieving real success. Commercial art sustained him in the lean times. Vickery’s work was collected and commissioned throughout Australia and the USA.

The designer and builder of many Moomba floats in the 1950s was commercial artist and industrial designer Lionel Leonard Ternes (1914-2011, SC 1926-30).

Gavin Ernest Kleinert (1924-99, SC 1940-41) was an industrial designer who worked for Myer. He was responsible for all stores in Victoria and interstate.

A highly-acclaimed ceramicist was Ivan Junior McMeekin OAM (1919-93, SC 1928-30). He performed Australia’s most complete research into Australian clays and glazes, which he published in Notes for Australian Potters. Launching the Sturt Pottery Workshop at Mittagong, New South Wales in 1953 played a crucial role in developing Australian ceramics.

One of the world’s greatest modern sculptors was a Scotch boy – Clement Lyon Meadmore (1929-2005, SC 1938-42). Beginning with designing and selling furniture (winning the 1953 Good Design Award in Sydney for a black steel dining chair with stretched cord forming the seat), he became possibly the first artist in Melbourne to produce welded steel sculpture. He exhibited in Melbourne and Sydney before moving to New York in 1963. His works became colossal abstract outdoor sculptures using COR-TEN steel, aluminium and bronze. His Awakening (1968) stands outside AMP Tower in the city.

Graham Stewart Bennett (1933-2004, SC 1945-49) was a production and costume designer, teacher and artist who studied art and design at RMIT. With John Truscott he designed furnishings and clothing for the 1967 movie Camelot. Truscott won Oscars for best art direction and for best costume design. Bennett was unable to share the awards as he was working illegally in the US without a green card. He taught Art at Haileybury College from 1969 to 1989. Among his students was Adam Elliot, who later sought his advice on the short animated film Harvie Krumpet, which won Elliot an Oscar. Elliot acknowledged the role his former teacher played in his own art.

A welded metal sculptor with a very different approach is William Maxwell Lyle (SC 1945-50). Whereas Meadmore was inspired by jazz, Lyle’s inspiration comes from what he sees around him.

His commissioned works can be seen around Australia and in several Asian countries.

Another New York Old Boy artist is David Andrew Gillison (SC 1950-52) who in 1959 won the National Art Gallery’s £1,000 travelling scholarship for overseas study. He undertook postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, in the US, and with the International Arts Foundation of Japan. His works include painting and photography, with photographs appearing in publications including National Geographic. Since 1970 he has been a professor in the art department of Lehman College, City University, New York.

Kevin Christian Mortensen (SC 1952-57) is an abstract sculptor and printmaker. He studied sculpture at RMIT from 1962 to 1966, lecturing there in sculpture and drawing from 1975 to 1983. His work is held by galleries around Australia.

Peter Harvey Nicholson (SC 1951-64) is a well-known artist, sculptor and cartoonist, widely-known for his cartoons in The Age, The Financial Review and The Australian, among other publications. His Rubbery Figures (1987-92) brought political satire with puppets to Australian television. His work was also seen on Steve Vizard’s Fast Forward. Nicholson created the busts of Hawke, Fraser, Keating, Howard and Rudd for the Ballarat Botanical Gardens’ Prime Ministers’ Avenue. He has won five Walkley Awards.

Another of Scotch’s well-known cartoonists is Edward Fulton ‘Ward’ O’Neill (SC 1969). Also known as an illustrator and caricaturist, he has worked for publications including The London Daily Mail, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, the Bulletin and the Australian Financial Review. O’Neill’s illustrations won Walkley Awards in 1982, 1984 and 1986.

While most cartoonists’ work but not faces are seen, the face of Andrew McIntyre Fyfe (SC 1976-83) has often been seen on television. He has appeared in commercials, and from 1985 was on-air cartoonist for Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Fyfe was later a regular cartoonist on The Footy Show. His published work has appeared in publications including Mad magazine, TV Week, the Herald Sun and The Sunday Telegraph. At Scotch Satura and The Scotch Collegian gave his creativity its first public exposure.

Horace Brodzky

Eric Balderson

Vaughan Griffin

Lionel Ternes

Peter Nicholson

Andrew Fyfe

Updated: Monday 24 June 2013