If you don't believe me, ask the old bloke
04 Feb 1904 - 09 Oct 1984
"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
61.0 x 91.5 cm board; 78.5 x 109.0 x 2.6 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r. corner, black oil "J.P.". Signed bot. c. verso on label on frame, black ink "JOHN PASSMORE/ ...". Signed and dated bot. c. verso on label on frame, black ink ".../ John Passmore/ 1953".
Bequest of Carlyle Greenwell 1961
Not on display
© John Passmore Museum of Art
Shown in 8 exhibitions
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Apr 1962–25 May 1962
Maitland Local Centenary Art Exhibition: Paintings by artists from the Hunter Valley Region (1963), Maitland Town Hall, 23 Sep 1963–27 Sep 1963
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):
Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara series from the collection of CRA Limited, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 04 Oct 1985–06 Nov 1985
Favourites: Margaret Olley and Barry Humphries choose from Australian collections (2000), S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 15 Jan 2000–27 Feb 2000
Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000
Harbourlife: Sydney Harbour from the 1940s to recent times:
Referenced in 10 publications
Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Mosaic and figure', pg. 213-214, Sydney, 2000, 225 (colour illus.), 301.
Robert Lindsay., Aspects of Australian Art: Art Gallery of New South Wales travelling art exhibition 1976, 'John Passmore', Sydney, 1976, (illus.). cat.no. 59
Elwyn Lynn., The Weekend Australian, 'Retrospective puts Passmore in order', Sydney, 29 Dec 1984-30 Dec 1984, page unknown.
Humphrey McQueen, Art Monthly Australia, 'Positions vacant', pg. 21-23, Canberra, Sep 2000, 22 (illus.). review of 'Australian icons' exhibition
Margaret Olley and Barry Humphries, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Barry Humphries choose from public and private collections, Sydney, 2000. Catalogue entry appears in inserted list to printed catalogue
Gavin Wilson, Harbourlife, 'harbourlife', pg. 7-32, Sydney, 2007, 56, 21, 21 (colour illus.).
Barry Pearce and Patrick McCaughey, Twentieth century Australian masterworks from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Fred Williams Pilbara Series, Tokyo, 1985, 33 (colour illus.). cat.no. 16
Barry Pearce, John Passmore 1904-84, Sydney, 1984, 60 (colour illus.). cat.no. 33
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Australian 20th Century Art', pg. 71-89, Sydney, 1984, 82 (illus.).
Paula Dredge, Margaret Sawicki, Steven Miller and Lindsay Parker, S.A. Parker Framing Works, 'Works in the collection with known Parker frames', pg. 27-68, Sydney, 2004, 64 (illus.).