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An image of The fish stealer by John Passmore

John Passmore

(Australia 04 Feb 1904 – 09 Oct 1984)

The fish stealer
Media category
Materials used
oil on hardboard

41.0 x 85.0 cm board; 58.5 x 102.0 x 2.3 cm

Signature & date
Signed l.r., oil "JP".
Bequest of Carlyle Greenwell 1961
Accession number
© John Passmore Museum of Art
Not on display
Further information

"By the end of 1953 Passmore's gestures were getting broader. His paint, no longer applied in crisp washes of green, thickened. Though by no means aggressive, it assumed a distinct physicality. Beneath the surface, the influence of Tintoretto was beginning to emerge. Chiaroscuro, much abstracted, appeared. Such are the more obvious characteristics of a series of paintings of boys and fishermen on wharves, piers, and beaches. These images were projected with the same meditative totality as his still-lifes. The quarrelling figures in 'Fish stealer', or the informal yet energetic grouping of 'If you don't believe me ask the old bloke', do not read as human dramas. Fishermen, air, pier, and water are all concretions of the same nameless substance, subtly knit together. Postures are deliberately clumsy and angular, the bodies are lumpish. Passmore's line, with muffled eloquence, runs forward, stops, thickens, gropes, turns a corner, and fades again. The awkward figures repeat the ungraceful carriage of most Australians: more important, however, their gawkiness is a deliberate guard against too florid or fluent a gesture of the brush."

Robert Hughes, 'The Art of Australia', Penguin, 1966

Bibliography (6)

Deutscher-Menzies Fine Art, The Sydney auction: Australian and International Art: Fine Art, 4 March 2003, Sydney, 2003, 76. lot no. 43, 'Newcastle Beach', 1955, oil on composition board, 33 x 83 cm, relates to the Gallery's painting and 'The fish stealer' is refered to in this catalogue entry.

Paula Dredge, Margaret Sawicki, Steven Miller and Lindsay Parker, S.A. Parker Framing Works, 'Works in the collection with known Parker frames', pg. 27-68, Sydney, 2004, 66 (illus.).

Robert Lindsay., Aspects of Australian Art: Art Gallery of New South Wales travelling art exhibition 1976, 'John Passmore', Sydney, 1976, (illus.). 60; not paginated

Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. NOTE: no catalogue numbers; Jeffrey Smart selection.

Barry Pearce, John Passmore 1904-84, Sydney, 1984, 65 (colour illus.). 38

David Thomas, Society of Artists Spring Exhibition, 'Works from the Wesfarmers collection of Australian art part 1: lots 1-23’, pg. 24-25, Sydney, 1912, 24.

Exhibition history (6)

Purchases and Acquisitions for 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Apr 1962–25 May 1962

Aspects of Australian art: Art Gallery of New South Wales Travelling Art Exhibition 1976, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1976–1977

John Passmore Retrospective (1984-1985):

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000

Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart (2002), S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 12 Jan 2002–24 Feb 2002

The art of the picture frame, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 May 2003–12 Sep 2003