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Syphilis and old lace



Arthur McIntyre


31 Oct 1945 - 26 Oct 2003


In this juxtaposition of burned cloth doilies with illustrations and texts from medical case histories, Arthur McIntyre intended to shock the viewer with unconventional materials that could be considered unappealing or ugly. The work is from a larger group of collaged drawings and paintings centred on the dualities of the human condition: birth and death, light and dark, survival and decay.

Collage became important to McIntyre when he was living in Paris in 1975. Surrounded by the complex layered fabric of that historic city, and with first-hand exposure to the works of the dadaists, French surrealists and contemporary collagists, he was prompted to explore the possibilities of this technique. Seeing parallels between the ‘living death’ of the city and the human condition, he felt that collage could provide a theatrically potent and compelling means of expression.




Media categories

Collage , Drawing

Materials used

watercolour, ink with collage of medical textbook pages, burnt cotton doilies, photograph, others papers and leaf, on white paper on card


60.7 x 50.8 cm cardboard

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. black ink "AMc '75".


Purchased 1976


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Arthur McIntyre

Works in the collection


Referenced in 4 publications


Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Arthur McIntyre: bad blood 1960-2000, 14, 16, 27 (colour illus.).

Peter Phillips, The Sydney Morning Herald, "Challenge to art world a cry in the dark', pg. 30, Sydney, 05 Dec 2003, 30. Obituary of Arthur McIntyre, artist 1945-2003 in 'This Life' section, edited by Suzy Baldwin.

Andrew Sayers, Contemporary Australian collage and its origins, 'The modern collage in Australia', pg. 29-38, Roseville, 1990, 36, 131.

Art and Australia [vol. 13, no. 4] Autumn: April - June 1976, "Exhibition commentary", pg. 33-34, Sydney, 1976, 34 (illus.).