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Australian art

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The telephone box



John Brack


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.




Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

John Brack

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 13 publications


John Brack, John Brack retrospective: paintings and drawings, 1945-1977, Canberra, 1977, (illus.). 7

Sasha Grishin AM, The art of John Brack - Volume 1, 'The urban icons', pg. 37-53, Australia, 1990, 47.

Sasha Grishin AM, The art of John Brack - Volume 2, Australia, 1990, 6, 91 (illus.). 36; Private collection

Sasha Grishin., John Brack: selected paintings and drawings 1947-1977, 'Introduction', Melbourne, 1977. 7; Collection of Mrs A.P. Webb

Tony Lenten, City art, Victoria, 1978, 31 (illus.).

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

Martin Browne Contemporary, 20th century Australian and New Zealand painting, Sydney, 1991, (colour illus.). 22

Alan McCullock, The Herald, 'Style and subject', pg. 22, Melbourne, 09 Mar 1955, 22. Exhibition review, general reference.

Ronald Millar, John Brack, 'Scenes', pg. 54-62, Melbourne, 1971, 58 (illus.). plate no. 31; illus. no. 19; Collection Mrs A.P. Webb,

Denise Mimmocchi, Look, 'Instilling the familiar with a lurking sense of uncertainty', pg. 29, Sydney, Jul 2011, 29 (colour illus.).

Peter Bray Gallery, John Brack, Melbourne, 1955. 11

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.).