(Australia, Germany 1899 – 23 Jun 1987)
8.5 x 11.8 cm platemark; 37.0 x 27.9 cm sheet
Theo Scharf was born in Melbourne to German parents, and is probably best remembered as the subject of Violet Teague's painting 'Boy with a palette' 1911, in the National Gallery of Australia collection. A celebrated 'child prodigy', Scharf left Australia with his parents in 1914 while still in his teens, but not before he had held a successful exhibition at the Besant Lodge-room in Melbourne, and contributed drawings to the 'Bulletin'. He was to settle eventually in Munich, returning only once to Australia, between 1950 and 1956, when he taught in Melbourne.
He was not entirely forgotten in Australia however; 'Art in Australia' illustrated two works from the 'Night in a city' portfolio in their December 1924 issue, and Dame Nellie Melba brought a number of his etchings to Australia in the 1920s. He became a well-known illustrator and cartoonist in Germany, as well as an etcher and painter, and served as a war artist for Germany in WWII.
These etchings are a part-satirical account of the night-life of a European city, from early evening to dawn. The characters that inhabit the night flit through the shadowy streets, the theatres and cinemas, night clubs and restaurants, revealing the dark underside of society, a counterpoint to the familiar images of daylight. They are sophisticated prints that reveal something of the influence photography had on printmakers in the early 20th century, in both subject and composition.
The prints have parallels with the work other Australian printmakers, some of them expatriates, such as Martin Lewis, Will Dyson and Weaver Hawkins, who explored similar themes in etchings, in the inter-war years.
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000
Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 78. General reference to 'Night in a city' portfolio.
Anne Ryan, Look, 'Night in a city: satirical views from 1923, underclass to upper class', pg. 14-15, Newtown, Apr 2006, 14-15 (colour illus.).
Australian prints (2000), Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Carlton, 02 Jun 2000–23 Jun 2000
Australian Collection Focus: Theo Scharf 'Night in a city', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Apr 2006–14 May 2006