Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Australian art

View More:


Red ochre



John Passmore


04 Feb 1904 - 09 Oct 1984


It was in the middle of the 1950s that Passmore began to move from the figurative motifs that had previously occupied him into wholly abstract forms. His participation in the landmark exhibition 'Direction I', held in Sydney in 1956 and which included works by John Olsen, William Rose, Eric Smith and Robert Klippel - all past students of Passmore - heralded his commitment to 'the act of painting as a form of meditation in itself'. Speaking many years later about Olsen, Passmore said:
"Olsen was tenacious and a very good thinker ... he said a totally new way of seeing things had taken over ... it's got a completely new lot of rules now ... you are not looking at nature at all. You are looking at a theory about painting. What one does is a painting. It is not nature at all. He seized on that ... I had my old way and Olsen's new way, and for a while they did get mixed up with one another."

Reviewing Passmore's exhibition at Terry Clune gallery, where 'Red ochre' was first shown, in March 1960 shortly before his departure for Europe, James Gleeson wrote:
"... there is a kind of apprehension in his work. He paints as though all his senses were extended to their fullest range of receptivity in an effort to understand the reasons for this apprehension. Vulnerability has given him an extraordinary sensitivity and has made him into one of the most important painters this country has yet produced."

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Place where the work was made

Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil on hardboard


107.0 x 122.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed l.r., oil "JP". Not dated.


A.H. Smith Bequest Fund 1960


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Passmore

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 9 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 16 publications


Art Gallery of South Australia, The Australian landscape, Adelaide, 1972. 47

Arts Council of Great Britain and Whitechapel Art Gallery, Recent Australian painting (1962), 'Catalogue', pg. 11-16, London, 1962, 15. 32

Kym Bonython, Ross K Luck, Laurie Thomas and Elwyn Lynn, Modern Australian painting, 1950/1975, Adelaide, 1980, 71 (colour illus.).

Kym Bonython and Elwyn Lynn, Modern Australian Painting, 1970/1975, Unknown, 1976, 71 (colour illus.).

Kym Bonython and Ross K Luck, Modern Australian painting, 1960/1970, Adelaide, 1970, 33 (colour illus.). colour plate no. 31

Christine France, New Directions 1952-1962, 'New directions 1952-1962', pg. 7-19, Sydney, 1991, 26 (colour illus.), 44. 70

Elwyn Lynn., The Weekend Australian, 'Retrospective puts Passmore in order', Sydney, 29 Dec 1984-30 Dec 1984, page unknown.

Angus Maude (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 09 Mar 1960. NOTE: incorrectly titled 'Yellow Ochre'

Frances McCarthy, Ian North and Daniel Thomas AM, Australian landscape 1802-1975, 'The Australian Landscape', Adelaide, 1972. 47

Ian North., Special exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia: Seventh Adelaide Festival of Arts 1972, 'The Australian Landscape', Adelaide, 1972. 46

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Landscape and gesture', pg. 239-240, Sydney, 2000, 243 (colour illus.), 301.

Barry Pearce, John Passmore 1904-84, Sydney, 1984, 18, 78 (colour illus.). 51

Jennifer Phipps (Editor), I had a dream: Australian art in the 1960s, Melbourne, 1997.

Simon Pierse, Art and Australia (Vol. 42, No. 2), 'Recent Australian painting: Australian artists in London in 1961', pg. 226-235, Sydney, Dec 2004-Feb 2005, 235 (colour illus.).

John Douglas Pringle, Australian Painting Today, London, 1963, 75 (colour illus.).

Author Unknown, "You beaut country": Australian landscape painting 1837-1964, Melbourne, 1964. 43