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John Brack

1920 - 1999


More than any other artist of his generation, John Brack was a painter of modern Australian life. Unlike his contemporaries, Brack painted neither myth nor history and when he focused on the landscape, it was the sprawl of suburbia that caught his attention rather than the ubiquitous Australian bush. Describing one of his core motivations, Brack said:

What I paint most is what interests me most, that is, people; the Human Condition, in particular the effect on appearance of environment and behaviour … A large part of the motive … is the desire to understand, and if possible, to illuminate …

This interest in the human condition is self-evident in Brack’s art of the 1950s and 60s which depicts the people and places that surrounded him; images of his wife and children, art-world friends, people, alone and in crowds, observed in the suburbs and the city, at work and at play. In the mid-1970s a shift occurred in Brack’s art and apart from portraits and paintings of the nude, literal representations of the human figure disappeared, being replaced by assorted everyday implements including cutlery, pens and pencils arranged with playing cards and postcards. From the study of individuals and their behaviour at the local level, which had characterised Brack’s work of the 1950s and 60s, the later paintings described the complexities of human nature and relationships and their role in the universal and seemingly inescapable experiences of political struggle, religious difference and war. These paintings are powerful moral tales in pictorial form. As Sasha Grishin has written, while in the course of his career Brack ‘moved from the specific and the particular … to the general and universal view … the central concern with people and the tragedy of their existence remains unchanged.’


Represented National Gallery of Australia and most state and regional galleries. His works are also held in private and corporate collections both nationally and internationally.

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