Skip to content

Tony Tuckson

Egypt, England, Australia 1921-1973
Born in Egypt, Tuckson studied art in England and later in Sydney after migrating to Australia following World War Two (he’d been stationed here with the Royal Air Force). In 1950 he joined the Art Gallery of NSW as assistant/deputy director, where he worked until his death, aged 52.

As an artist, Tuckson increasingly simplified form and restricted colour from the 1950s, to concentrate on the act of painting. While absorbing developments in European and American abstraction, the vital force behind his approach was his lifelong interest in Aboriginal and Melanesian art, and he played a significant role in developing these collections at the Gallery.

White lines (vertical) on ultramarine 1970-73

Tuckson was one of Australia’s finest abstract expressionists. He was inspired by American artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, whose influence can be seen in the vertical constructions in this large-scale painting. The passionate urgency of this work also reflects Tuckson’s belief that painting should be a direct manifestation of the spirit.

‘If we consider the several components manifested in a work of art… foremost is man himself, the artist… but equally important is the use of his intuitive faculties – the influence of the unconscious,’ said Tuckson.

People and places

From the late 1950s, Tuckson began curating Aboriginal art at the Art Gallery of NSW in an unofficial capacity. He was the first person in such a role at any art gallery and the first to commission, collect and exhibit Indigenous Australian works for aesthetic reasons – as artworks in their own right – as distinct from objects solely for ethnographic study. He travelled on collecting expeditions to Melville Island and Arnhem Land in 1958 and 1959, with his wife Margaret Tuckson and Dr Stuart Scougall, collecting artworks that are central to the Gallery’s holdings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, including the spectacular tutini that are featured in the Australian galleries.