Jon Molvig / Australia 1923–70 / A twilight of women 1957 / Oil on composition board / 137.2 x 148.6cm / Purchased 1984 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Otte Bartzis

Jon Molvig
A twilight of women 1957

On Display: QAG, Gallery 4

Jon Molvig’s A twilight of women belongs to a group of paintings that explores brooding, nocturnal images of lovers, prostitutes and lunatics. The work belongs to a period when the extremes of passion and emotional turmoil provided the catalyst for much of the artist’s work. A relentless rhythm of brushstrokes and slashes of paint describe the naked bodies of two women in a wild embrace, with a leering, red-eyed black cat as their companion.

In A twilight of women, Molvig presents a common patriarchal trope of a witches’ coven; however, the underlying structure of the painting reveals that Molvig was in a visual dialogue with several artists whose work he admired, including Edvard Munch (1863–1944), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) and Georges Rouault (1871–1958). The composition of the painting references Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907, the famous work by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Jon Molvig was born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1923. After serving in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War Two, Molvig studied art for three years in Sydney, then went on to travel throughout Europe, where he encountered the German and Norwegian expressionists who would significantly influence his work.

From 1955 until his death in 1970, Molvig was based in Brisbane. A complex man, his career was characterised by radical shifts in style. Molvig was also known for his highly considered exploration of technique and the power of his symbolism.

It’s a matter of inventing symbols for what you want to say and putting the symbols down in paint . . . I believe that for every subject you tackle you must invent a new set of symbols and sometimes a new technique to say what you want to say.— Jon Molvig

Endnotes:

1 Jon Molvig Interviewed by Hazel de Berg in the Hazel de Berg Collection [sound recording], Hazel de Berg Collection, National Library of Australia, Canberra; DeB 15, June 1961, <http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-214255022>, accessed July 2019.

Discussion Questions

1. How has Molvig used line to create a rhythm in his composition?

2. The sun and the moon are frequent symbols in Molvig’s work. What does the moon symbolise in A twilight of women?

Classroom Activities

1. Using charcoal, draw a human figure (refer to images online or in a magazine). Repeat this process two or three times on the same piece of paper. Emphasise the pose and movement of the figures by accentuating and repeating lines.

2. Research the artists who influenced Molvig when he created A twilight of women.


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