As one of Australia’s greatest and most influential Modernists, Max Dupain re-shaped Australian photography over the course of his career from the 1930s until his death in 1992. He rose to fame as a contemporary photographer who was adept at taking the medium to an artistic level, a quality seldom seen in Australia at that time. Dupain believed that Australia should pursue its own modern culture of photography, rejecting outdated ideas about style and content. He wanted his country to preserve its rich cultural heritage through pictures, while incorporating new techniques and approaches to imaging. His most famous image, Sunbaker, became an icon that has received worldwide recognition.
Blue Gum Forest, Grose Valley NSWc. 1950s, printed 1980s
silver gelatin photograph
signed and dated 50s, in pencil on image lower right, titled below image in pencil
41.5 x 39cm
Gentle images of the Australian landscape, such as Blue Gum Forest, Grose Valley, capture the atmospheric effects of evocative, cinematic light. Dupain believed that Australia should pursue its own modern culture of photography, rejecting outdated ideas about style and content. He wanted his country to preserve its rich cultural heritage through pictures, while incorporating new techniques and approaches to imaging.
Silos Through Windscreen [Glebe Island, Sydney]1935, printed later
silver gelatin photograph
signed and dated in pencil on image lower right
37.3 x 37.6cm
Glebe Island was the site of a grain elevator and tall concrete silos which were operated from 1921 by the Grain Elevators Board of NSW. While some of the silos were demolished, those now remaining are heritage listed.
The artist’s views of ‘old Sydney’ to contemporary eyes are among his most dynamic and historically fascinating. Dupain disliked the city’s growing skyscrapers in later years, describing them as “filing cabinets for humans”. In his views of Sydney from the 1930s and 1940s a great empathy becomes apparent for the architecture of the past. Further evidence of Dupain’s love for historic building’s manifests in his beautiful publication Old Colonial Buildings of Australia, Methuen Australia, 1980.
As one of Australia’s greatest and most influential Modernists, Max Dupain re-shaped Australian photography over the course of his career from the 1930s until his death in 1992.
photograph signed by photographer’s son Rex Dupain in pencil in authentication stamp on backing verso
29.9 x 24.7cm
“Dupain’s people photographs of the 1930s and 1940s, taken on Sydney’s most popular beaches, Bondi and Manly, show Australians in the prime of their relationship with their beaches. Money was tight and the beach was free, a relaxing sense of propriety was allowing more freedom in dress and conduct, work hours were accommodating and electronic entertainment hadn’t begun to keep youth indoors. It was an environment rich with possibilities for Dupain, at ease on the beach both as an attractive athlete and a photographer nurturing an inner voice which, he wrote, would spontaneously ‘call out …. and behold, there [the picture] is’.
In a time when the outback dominated intellectual concepts of Australian identity, Dupain was photographing a beach mythology far more real to most Australians than the wide dry spaces of the inland. Few Australians lack light infused memories of a beach and long lost hours spent between cool, turbulent water and warm, quiet sand.”
Jill White, Dupain’s Beaches, Chapter & Verse, 2000, p. 74
This historic photo shows the the Cahill Expressway only a handful of years after its completion in 1958. This photograph was taken before the construction of the now demolished Goldfield’s house. This landmark building would later be erected to the far right and was completed in 1966. Note also the AMP building on the far left which was finished in 1962. It is from this history of Sydney’s harbour skyline that we know this image was taken between 1962 and 1966; an intriguing glimpse into the city’s architectural past.
Blue Gum Forest, Grose Valley NSWc. 1940s, printed later
signed, titled and dated verso
41.5 x 39cm
Private collection, Sydney
This image was originally printed by Max Dupain as the templates for a set of limited edition photographs which were reproduced in a folio for the Royal Blind Society. These three original works were among the artist’s favourites. Blue Gum Forest, Grose Valley, a highly evocative and gentle image of the Australian landscape demonstrates Dupain’s abilities at capturing mood with the use of raking, cinematic light.
Another example is held in AGNSW with date ‘1940’ and comment “Dupain said of his day at Manly beach “actions like this have to be anticipated; in this case by me standing out in the surf with camera and waiting for the start. One shot only —I had to be lucky and I was” (Dupain 1986).
This image, along with The Sunbaker (1937), Bondi (1939) and At Newport (1952) is one of Dupain’s most famous and revered images.