The telephone box
1920 - 11 Feb 1999
This painting depicts a woman in mid conversation in a public telephone box. Her figure is constructed through a series of repeated angular forms, so that she appears to be an extension of the stark geometry of her surroundings. It illustrates John Brack’s strategy of drawing viewers into his work by positioning them as direct and close observers of his subjects. While conversations normally imply connections between people, this work presents the act of communication as strained and isolating.
'The telephone box' is indicative of the powerful statements about urban experience that the artist exhibited in his initial solo shows in 1953 and 1955, which established him as a significant presence in Australian art.
oil on canvas
80.3 x 47.1 cm sight; 81.5 x 48.5 cm stretcher; 84.5 x 51.5 x 4.6 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, black oil "John Brack 54".
Anonymous gift 2010. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Helen Brack
Shown in 5 exhibitions
John Brack (1955), Peter Bray Gallery, Melbourne, 08 Mar 1955–17 Mar 1955
John Brack: selected paintings and drawings 1947-1977 (1977), RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, 15 Mar 1977–01 Apr 1977
John Brack: paintings and drawings 1945-1977 (1977), Australian National University, Canberra, 21 Sep 1977–06 Oct 1977
John Brack: a retrospective exhibition (1987-1988), National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne, 10 Dec 1987–31 Jan 1988
20th century Australian and New Zealand painting (1991), Martin Browne Contemporary, Paddington, 22 Aug 1991–20 Sep 1991
Referenced in 13 publications
Sasha Grishin., John Brack: selected paintings and drawings 1947-1977, 'Introduction', Melbourne, 1977. cat.no. 7; Collection of Mrs A.P. Webb
Robert Lindsay, John Brack: a retrospective exhibition, 'The figure in the carpet: some literary and visual sources in the work of John Brack', pg.11 -20., Melbourne, 1987, 31 (illus.). cat no. 17; Private collection
Alan McCullock, The Herald, 'Style and subject', pg. 22, Melbourne, 09 Mar 1955, 22. Exhibition review, general reference.
Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'Instilling the familiar with a lurking sense of uncertainty', pg. 29, Sydney, Jul 2011, 29 (colour illus.).
Wayne Tunnicliffe, Look, 'John Brack: two superb new acquisitions', pg. 30-31, Sydney, Dec 2013-Jan 2014, 30, 31 (colour illus.).
Natalie Wilson., Foundation Newsletter #18, 'Curators & Coordinators' reports', Sydney, Jun 2011, (colour illus.).
John Brack, 'Scenes', pg. 54-62, Melbourne, 1971, 58 (illus.). plate no. 31; illus. no. 19; Collection Mrs A.P. Webb, Victoria.ee
John Brack, Melbourne, 1955. cat.no. 11
20th century Australian and New Zealand painting, Sydney, 1991, (colour illus.). cat.no. 22
The art of John Brack - Volume 1, 'The urban icons', pg. 37-53, Australia, 1990, 47.
The art of John Brack - Volume 2, Australia, 1990, 6, 91 (illus.). cat.no. 36; Private collection
City art, Victoria, 1978, 31 (illus.).
John Brack retrospective: paintings and drawings, 1945-1977, Canberra, 1977, (illus.). cat.no. 7