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Australian art

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Death of Leichhardt



Albert Tucker


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.


Other Titles

Death of an explorer

End explorer

The Death of Leichhardt



Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

Albert Tucker

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Foundation Newsletter #8, Sydney, Jun 2006. not paginated

Hirschl & Adler, New York, Albert Tucker (1960) (NY), New York, 1960. 10; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'

Barry Pearce, Look, 'Albert Tucker: A chance for Sydney to get to know a Melbourne artist better', pg. 12, Sydney, Mar 2007, 12.

John Reed, Albert Tucker, Melbourne, 1960. 27; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'; dated 1959 (1957 crossed through and annotated in black ink on AGNSW catalogue)

Albert Tucker, Richard Haese and Tolarno Galleries, Albert Tucker: paintings 1945-1960, Melbourne, 1982, (colour illus.). not paginated; 69; titled 'Death of an explorer'

Christopher Uhl, Albert Tucker, Melbourne, 1969, 101. 11.7; titled 'Death of Leichhardt'; dated 1959

Waddington Galleries, Albert Tucker, London, 1960. 5; titled 'The Death of Leichhardt'