Painted by David Strachan in France in 1955, the subject of this portrait is Alexandre Sarrés, also known as Maurice Brasseur or Mau, a Belgian engraver and illustrator for the journal Osmose cahiers littéraires, edited by Jean Cocteau. While in Paris, Strachan had developed an interest in deep colour etching, establishing the private printing house Stramur-Presse along with Dutchman Jacques Murray in 1951.
A member of the Sydney Charm School, which defied the progress of abstraction in Australian art during the 1960s, Strachan took inspiration from the quattrocento and the late romantic periods. Working within the traditional genres of still-life, landscape and portraiture, the artist instilled the ordinary with humility and sensitivity by means of uncomplicated compositions, sombre tones and an honest treatment of paint.
'Basically, the thing that I’m really striving for is to express the feeling I have about the subject, and sometimes I can put it down very quickly, and sometimes it takes me months and months of reorganisation of the shapes and colours and tones to get that feeling. When I’ve got that, that is as much as I can do'.
David Strachan, 1962
Strachan died prematurely at the age of 51 in car accident at Yass in November 1970. Despite his modest output, he was honoured posthumously with both a memorial (1973) and retrospective exhibition (1993).
Portrait of Sarres
Portrait of Sarrés
oil on plywood
45.5 x 37.3 cm board (irreg.); 59.4 x 51.8 x 3.3 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated u.r., brown oil "D. STRACHAN 55".
Bequest of Margaret Olley 2012
Not on display
© Estate of David Strachen
Where the work was made
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Society of Artists Spring Exhibition (1960), Farmer's Blaxland Gallery, Sydney, 25 Aug 1960–06 Sep 1960
David Strachan 1919 - 1970 (1973):
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 10 Feb 1973–10 Mar 1973
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 23 Mar 1973–22 Apr 1973
- Commonwealth Art Advisory Board 03 May 1973–27 May 1973
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Jun 1973–15 Jul 1973
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 26 Jul 1973–23 Aug 1973
David Strachan 1919-1970 (1989), Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane, 28 Oct 1989–22 Nov 1989
David Strachan (1919-1970) Retrospective (1993):
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks 04 Feb 1993–14 Mar 1993
- Brisbane City Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Brisbane 20 Mar 1993–18 Apr 1993
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 04 May 1993–20 Jun 1993
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 23 Jul 1993–05 Sep 1993
Referenced in 4 publications
David Strachan, Sydney, 1993, (colour illus.), 126. titled 'Portrait of Sarrés'; cat.no. 29
David Strachan 1919-1970, 'Biographical notes', Brisbane, Oct 1989, (colour illus.). titled 'Portrait of Sarrés'; cat.no. 22; priced $10,000
Daniel Thomas, David Strachan, 1919-1979, 'Catalogue', pg. 9, Sydney, 1973, 9, 22 (illus.). titled 'Portrait of Sarrés'; cat.no. 22; plate no. 24
New South Wales Society of Artists, Society of Artists Exhibition of Drawings and Prints 1960, New South Wales, 1960. titled 'Portrait of Sarres'; cat.no. 133; priced 40 guineas; not paginated