Artist's Biography

Albert Tucker was born Melbourne, Victoria in 1914. He is known as a contemporary painter of symbolist, surrealist and expressionist works as well as a printmaker.

Albert Tucker lays claim that he received no formal at training. He was closely associated with other great Australian artists such as Sir Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and John Perceval during the beginnings of the contemporary art movement in Melbourne during the 1930’s.

Albert Tucker served in the army during the war years. He was president of the Contemporary Art Society and spent some time in 1947 with the occupational forces in Japan as an official war artist and then moved to live and paint in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States during 1947.

Albert Tucker’s work first attracted attention in Melbourne during the depression years, when he earned a precarious living as a freelance illustrator, painter and writer. He married the artist Joy Hester (1920-1960) with whom they had a son, Sweeney (later adopted by John and Sunday Reed), but the marriage broke up in the 1940’s.

Albert Tucker was influenced by the work of German expressionists, such as Beckmann (at that time unknown in Australia). Tucker’s paintings, which laid emphasis on the unrest and savagery of the times, offended prevailing conservative tastes and were attacked by reactionary academic groups. He responded vigorously in polemics published in the magazine “Angry Penguins” and in the work he did as president of the Contemporary Art Society in Melbourne from 1943 to 1947.

During the time in 1947 when he was in Japan as an official war artist, he worked with Harry Roskolenko, an American writer attached to the Allied occupational forces. At the end of the same year Tucker returned to Australia, then moved to Europe, where he lived and worked for the next 11 years before going to the United States. During this period he held exhibitions in Amsterdam, 1951; Paris, 1952; Rome, 1953; London, 1957; and New York, 1960.

In 1960 he won the One Thousand Pound Kurt Geiger Foundation award, administered by the Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne and this provided the funds for his return to Australia.  In his evocations of an “antipodean image”, Tucker, like Sidney Nolan, had been largely responsible for awakening interest abroad in the potential of Australia as a painter’s country, particularly in respect to its desert regions and its history. The critic of “Time and Tide”, London aptly described his pictures, as statements of Australia, stripping off the thin, twentieth-century veneer and displaying a scarred rock landscape or pulverised desert.  This kind of painting is a mature distillation of environment, an uprooted and transplanted tradition of the weirdness of the other side of the world.

Asked to define his own attitude in 1963, Albert Tucker said that for him, art stopped with that moment of poised tension, which remained just before the resolution of an enigma, the sense of an impending encounter with a final truth.  He also felt that art was the evidence of man’s attempt to exorcise his unknown destiny, to reach those emblems, which lie below and above the individual ego and outside history.

From the time of his return to Australia in 1960, Tucker held a number of increasingly successful Australian exhibitions, originating mainly at the Australian Galleries, Collingwood. A forthright critic of the preliminary showing of the Tate Gallery “Exhibition of Australian Art” in Adelaide, 1962, he did much to bring about the necessary modifications and additions to the exhibition before it left for London.

Sculpture in bronze was added to his accomplishments in his exhibition “Images of Modern Evil”, Sweeney Reed Galleries, Brunswick, Victoria in 1972.  In 1978, a major solo exhibition of some 215 works on paper was shown at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne. Other major solo exhibitions were “Albert Tucker 1982-93”; Tolarno Galleries 1982, “Faces I Have Met”, 55 portraits, Tolarno 1985; “Drawings of Albert Tucker”, retrospective at National Gallery of Victoria in 1989. Significant group exhibitions in which his work appeared in 1993 include “Rebels and Precursors”: “Aspects of Painting in Melbourne 1937-47; National Gallery of Victoria 1962 with 39 paintings represented; “Art and Social Commitment: An End to the City of Dreams” 1931-48; Art Gallery of New South Wales and touring state galleries 1984-85; “Angry Penguins and Realist Painting in Melbourne in the 1940’s”; Haywood and Tate Galleries, London 1988-1989; “The Great Australian Art Exhibition” and “The Face of Australia” Bicentennial exhibitions 1988-89; “Classical Modernism: The George Bell Circle”, National Gallery of Victoria in 1992.

A major retrospective of his work was curated by the National Gallery of Victoria and toured Australian State Galleries in 1989 and 1990. Albert Tucker also won the “Australian Women’s Weekly“ Portrait Prize in 1959. He was awarded an Order of Australia for services to the arts in 1984. Albert Tucker died in 1999.

His works are widely represented in the National Collection, Canberra; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Mertz Collection, United States; Mendel Collection, Canada; Institute Nacional De Bellas Artes, Mexico; all State and many Regional Galleries as well as institutional and private collections in Australia and overseas.