Death of Leichhardt
29 Dec 1914 - 23 Oct 1999
Albert Tucker, one of Australia’s most important post-war artists, helped reinvigorate and re-mythologise the Australian landscape through his modernist approach. Along with Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Arthur Boyd, he was part of the group of artists active at Heide, near Melbourne, in the 1940s and enjoyed the patronage of John and Sunday Reed. Tucker left Australia in 1947 and spent the next thirteen years travelling and painitng in Japan, England, Europe and the United States.
As an expatriate artist living in Italy in the 1950s, Albert Tucker began to explore the ideas and imagery of the Australian landscape and mythology. ‘I was having nostalgic memories of Australia. I was remembering the dryness and gum tree trunks… I had that sense of dried out cratered form which were also volcanic landscapes, and they could also be wounds and gashes.’
In Rome Tucker met the acclaimed arte povera artist Alberto Burri, whose use of PVA and mixed media to build up his paint surfaces inspired Tucker to adopt the approach. The built-up surfaces he achieved with PVA, sand and other materials incorporated with paint are a noted characteristic of his work and realistically depict the ‘gashes and wounds’ of the harsh Australian landscape.
‘Death of Leichhardt’ explores his interest in the Australian mythology surrounding the bushragers and explorers of the country’s past, a fascination he shared with his friend Sidney Nolan. Much in the way Nolan’s black Kelly helmet became his hallmark, Tucker’s ‘Antipodean head’ became his. The distinctive profile head with it’s rough, cratered surface is used in many of his works and he continued to experiment with and alter the head shape throughout his career. Sand has been applied to the painting surface to mimic the desert in which the explorer likely died.
In the 1950s and 60s Tucker was determined to show Australians the forms and shapes of the country through both his paint treatment and subject matter. His handling of the themes of Australia’s people and land brought a fresh approach to painting in this country and contributed to the myth-making of Australia’s folk heroes and its unique and strange wildlife, all powered by his affection for the native landscape.
Death of an explorer
The Death of Leichhardt
polyvinyl acetate and sand on hardboard
122.0 x 152.0 cm board; 131.0 x 161.5 x 3.2 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., black charcoal "Tucker '59".
Gift of the Albert & Barbara Tucker Foundation 2017
Not on display
© Albert & Barbara Tucker Foundation. Courtesy of Sotheby's Australia
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Albert Tucker (1960) (NY), Hirschl & Adler, New York, New York, 29 Mar 1960–16 Apr 1960
Albert Tucker (1960) [Waddington Galleries], Waddington Galleries, London, 04 Jul 1960–27 Jul 1960
Albert Tucker (1960), Museum of Modern Art in Australia, Melbourne, 09 Nov 1960–25 Nov 1960
Albert Tucker: Paintings 1945-1960, Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, 1982–1982
Referenced in 7 publications
Barry Pearce, Look, 'Albert Tucker: A chance for Sydney to get to know a Melbourne artist better', pg. 12, Sydney, Mar 2007, 12.
Albert Tucker, Richard Haese and Tolarno Galleries, Albert Tucker: paintings 1945-1960, Melbourne, 1982, (colour illus.). not paginated;cat.no. 69; titled 'Death of an explorer'
John Reed, Albert Tucker, Melbourne, 1960. cat.no. 27; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'; dated 1959 (1957 crossed through and annotated in black ink on AGNSW catalogue)
Waddington Galleries, Albert Tucker, London, 1960. cat.no. 5; titled 'The Death of Leichhardt'
Hirschl & Adler, New York, Albert Tucker (1960) (NY), New York, 1960. cat.no. 10; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'
Albert Tucker, Melbourne, 1969, 101. cat.no. 11.7; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'; dated 1959
Foundation Newsletter #8, Sydney, Jun 2006. not paginated