Charles Blackman / Australia 1928–2018 / Stradbroke ferry 1952 / Enamel and tempera on heavy cardboard / 63.5 x 76cm / Gift of Barbara Blackman, AO, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2016. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Charles Blackman, 1952. Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

Charles Blackman
Stradbroke ferry 1952

Not Currently on Display

In 1952, Blackman rented a cottage on North Stradbroke Island where he painted the ferry to this popular island holiday spot at night. The application of paint evokes the jewel-like lights of the ferry and the coastal settlement reflected in the waters of Moreton Bay.

The painting has a strong connection to Sidney Nolan, who was an important early influence on Blackman. Nolan’s influence is evident in the seemingly naive painting technique and modernist composition. The ferry is represented as an iconic object floating between the viewer and the destination, travelling through space while suspended in time.

Through his friendship with Barrett Reid, Blackman was introduced to art patrons John and Sunday Reed in Melbourne and, through them, saw Nolan’s early St Kilda works. In 1952, before Blackman left Melbourne for Brisbane, Sunday Reed presented him with a leather plumber’s bag filled with brushes and small tins of Dulux enamel paint. The bright, glossy surface of the painting suggests that it may have been painted with house paints, possibly those given to him by Sunday Reed.

Blackman continued to visit Moreton Bay, returning to the subject in 1971.

Born in Sydney, Charles Blackman left school before the age of 14. From 1942 until 1947, he worked in the art department of The Sun newspaper, taking evening classes at East Sydney Technical College and at the Meldrum school of painting.

In early 1948, Blackman hitchhiked to Brisbane, where he met many young artists and writers, including the woman he would later marry, Barbara Patterson, who influenced his artistic development. In Brisbane, he was introduced to the work of modern European masters through colour reproductions available in libraries. He was also influenced by an exhibition of Sidney Nolan’s paintings, inspired by Fraser Island.

In the early 1950s, John and Sunday Reed were among the first collectors of Blackman’s work. Sunday Reed introduced him to the poetry of John Shaw Neilson, which informed his compelling ‘Schoolgirl’ series, while his remarkable ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series is infused with references to life at Heide, where the Reeds lived. In 1997, Blackman was awarded an Order of the British Empire for his services to art.