The Sentimental Bloke and Sweet Doreen (From the Book of Verse) – Sawrey Family Collection – SOLD

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Detail photos for this Artwork

Hugh Sawrey loved reading and was particularly interested in Australian bush poetry.  He was a great fan of Banjo Paterson, Will Ogilvie, Henry Lawson and C. J. Dennis. His family recall him often quoting aloud verses from poems over the dinner table.

Australian poetry also inspired many of Sawrey’s paintings, including this charming oil that references the verse novel from 1915, “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke” by Australian poet and journalist C. J. Dennis (1876-1938).

As the poem was being written, portions of it were published in “The Bulletin” between 1909 and 1915. The whole verse novel was published in book form by Angus & Robertson in 1915. Written in comical Australian slang that was Dennis’ signature style, the work became immensely popular and C.J. Dennis helped popularise Australian slang in literature, earning him the title ‘the laureate of the larrikin”.  The poem remains a classic of Australian literature and was the best-selling book of poetry ever produced in Australia.

The poem tells the story of the main character Bill, a gang member prone to drinking and playing Two Up in Melbourne’s Little Lonsdale red-light district. The poem, recounted by Bill in a conversational style, recounts how he chances upon Doreen, a young woman “of some social aspiration”, in a local market. The novel chronicles their courtship and marriage, detailing Bill’s transformation from a violent gang member to a contented husband and father.

Sawrey’s lovely painting, shows Bill as oarsman, rowing a boat for his adored and genteel, Doreen. The painting alludes metaphorically to a passage in the poem where Bill recounts their wedding day, and the parson’s comments to the newly married couple:

The Parson-bloke ‘e speaks a little piece,
That makes me blush an’ ‘ang me silly ‘ead.
   ‘E sez ‘e ‘opes our lovin’ will increase —
I likes that pilot fer the things ‘e said.
‘E sez Doreen an’ me is in a boat,
   An’ sailin’ on the matrimonial sea.
‘E sez as ‘ow ‘e hopes we’ll allus float
   In peace an’ joy, from storm an’ danger free.

Oil on Board
20 x 30 cm
41 x 51 cm
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