"By the end of 1953 Passmore's gestures were getting broader. His paint, no longer applied in crisp washes of green, thickened. Though by no means aggressive, it assumed a distinct physicality. Beneath the surface, the influence of Tintoretto was beginning to emerge. Chiaroscuro, much abstracted, appeared. Such are the more obvious characteristics of a series of paintings of boys and fishermen on wharves, piers, and beaches. These images were projected with the same meditative totality as his still-lifes. The quarrelling figures in 'Fish stealer', or the informal yet energetic grouping of 'If you don't believe me ask the old bloke', do not read as human dramas. Fishermen, air, pier, and water are all concretions of the same nameless substance, subtly knit together. Postures are deliberately clumsy and angular, the bodies are lumpish. Passmore's line, with muffled eloquence, runs forward, stops, thickens, gropes, turns a corner, and fades again. The awkward figures repeat the ungraceful carriage of most Australians: more important, however, their gawkiness is a deliberate guard against too florid or fluent a gesture of the brush."
Robert Hughes, 'The Art of Australia', Penguin, 1966
oil on hardboard
41.0 x 85.0 cm board; 58.5 x 102.0 x 2.3 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.r., oil "JP".
Bequest of Carlyle Greenwell 1961
Not on display
© John Passmore Museum of Art
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Apr 1962–25 May 1962
Aspects of Australian art: Art Gallery of New South Wales Travelling Art Exhibition 1976, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1976–1977
John Passmore Retrospective (1984-1985):
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart (2002), S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 12 Jan 2002–24 Feb 2002
The art of the picture frame, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 May 2003–12 Sep 2003
Referenced in 6 publications
Robert Lindsay., Aspects of Australian Art: Art Gallery of New South Wales travelling art exhibition 1976, 'John Passmore', Sydney, 1976, (illus.). cat.no. 60; not paginated
Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. NOTE: no catalogue numbers; Jeffrey Smart selection.
David Thomas, Society of Artists Spring Exhibition, 'Works from the Wesfarmers collection of Australian art part 1: lots 1-23’, pg. 24-25, Sydney, 1912, 24.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown and Unknown, S.A. Parker Framing Works, 'Works in the collection with known Parker frames', pg. 27-68, Sydney, 2004, 66 (illus.).
Unknown, The Sydney auction: Australian and International Art: Fine Art, 4 March 2003, Sydney, 2003, 76. lot no. 43, 'Newcastle Beach', 1955, oil on composition board, 33 x 83 cm, relates to the Gallery's painting and 'The fish stealer' is refered to in this catalogue entry.
Unknown, John Passmore 1904-84, Sydney, 1984, 65 (colour illus.). cat.no. 38