The period between 1919 and 1923 represents Roland Wakelin's moment of genius. During the space of five years he embarked, through a series of tiny paintings, on his now-famous colour-music or synaesthesia experiments with Roy de Maistre, absorbed the sudden tonalist impact of Max Meldrum who visited Sydney in 1920, and in 1923 left for Europe to sort out these two diametrically opposed influences on the direction of his vision.
There are several self portraits by Wakelin of this period, including one of 1923 in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection, but this work, painted in 1920, was of singular significance to the artist because it is the very first evidence of Meldrum's influence on him. Geometric disposition of shapes, cut-off relationship to the edges, and broad simplified brushwork contain all the sensibility of Wakelin's beautiful small landscape compositions of the previous year, but it is as if colour has been quite suddenly eliminated at the touch of a switch. This little self portrait remains compositionally the conception of a true modernist.
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2006
oil on paperboard
26.7 x 25.4 cm board; 42.2 x 40.5 x 2.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. corner, pen and black ink "R.S. WAKELIN 1920".
Edward Stinson Bequest Fund 2006
Not on display
© Roland Wakelin Estate
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Roland Wakelin retrospective (1967):
Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalism 1915-1950:
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 14 Aug 2008–19 Oct 2008
- McClelland Gallery, Victoria 16 Nov 2008–01 Feb 2009
- National Gallery of Australia, Parkes 20 Feb 2009–26 Apr 2009
- Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre 09 May 2009–21 Jun 2009
- University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane 17 Jul 2009–13 Sep 2009
- Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle 09 Oct 2009–29 Nov 2009
Referenced in 6 publications
Douglas Dundas, Art and Australia [series 5, vol. 4, no. 4], 'Roland Wakelin the painter', pg. 278-282, Sydney, Mar 1967-May 1967, 282 (illus.).
Douglas Dundas, Roland Wakelin retrospective, Sydney, 1967. cat.no. 18
Tracey Lock-Weir, Misty moderns: Australian tonalists 1915-1950, 'Max Meldrum and Australian modernism', pg. 89-110, Adelaide, 2008, 101 (colour illus.), 140. NOTE: Refer to Meldrum in Sydney section.
Tracey Lock-Weir, Artonview, 'Misty moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915-1950', pg. 18-19, Parkes, Summer 2008-2009, 19 (colour illus.).
Sotheby's Australia, Sotheby's Melbourne: Fine Australian paintings, Melbourne, Apr 1995-May 1995. lot no. 186; titled 'Self portrait' 1920
Daniel Thomas, Symposium papers: Colour in art - revisiting 1919 & R-Balson, 'Modern Australia: Colour in art 1910s-1950s', pg. 3-11, Sydney, 2008, 8, 11.