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Australian art

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James Gleeson


21 Nov 1915 - 20 Oct 2008


Gleeson spent three months living in Italy in 1948.

"It was my first encounter with the classical world, in situ, as it were ... and it set up a very real conflict for me. I had always been drawn towards the darker, less logical, more mysterious ethos of Northern European artists ... Theirs was a world in which man was by no means the measure of all things, but only a part of the turbulent, violent, and usually inexplicable forces of nature.

In Italy I encountered a very different view. Man was centre stage - the measure of all things ... In this Classical or neo-Platonic view, man was created in the image of God, or the gods were conceived in the image of man and the notion of human perfectibility, in the sense that a human being can become god-like, is implicit.

Michelangelo and other sculptors and painters pushed me towards this conception and it was to play a dominant role in determining my aesthetic route for the next twenty years or more."
- James Gleeson 1993

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


127.5 x 96.8 cm stretcher; 148.3 x 117.5 x 4.2 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.r. corner, red oil "Gleeson". Signed and dated u.l. [on tablet above entablature on building in background], brown and white oil "JA GLEESON/ .../ MCMLI".


Purchased 1952


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

James Gleeson

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Herbert Badham, A gallery of Australian art, 'Introduction', pg. v-vii., Sydney, 1954, xii, illus.. plate no. 64

Christopher Heathcote, Art Monthly Australia, '"James Gleeson: Beyond the screen of sight" at the National Gallery of Victoria', pg. 26-29, Canberra, Mar 2005, 28 (colour illus.).

Anne Ryan, James Gleeson: drawings for paintings, 'Refined Destruction! Dainty Horror!', pg. 19-28, Sydney, 2003, 21, 51 (colour illus.).

Clive Turnbull, Jean Campbell and Daniel Thomas AM, Australian painting: colonial, impressionist, contemporary, Adelaide, 1962, 43. 116

The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary', Adelaide, 1962. not paginated, 130