Albert Tucker / Australia 1914–99 / Study for ‘Images of modern evil: Spring in Fitzroy’ 1943 / Gouache on paper on composition board / 41 x 47.9cm / Purchased 1995 with a special allocation from the Queensland Government. Celebrating the Queensland Art Gallery’s Centenary 1895–1995 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of Albert Tucker

Albert Tucker
Study for ‘Images of modern evil: Spring in Fitzroy’ 1943

On Display: QAG, Gallery 10

Albert Tucker’s series ‘Images of modern evil’ dealt with the moral decline he perceived in Australia with the influx of American troops during World War Two. The fragments of the American flag refer to the skirts that ‘victory girls’ wore to gain attention from American GIs.

In 1942 Tucker spent time as an Army artist at the Heidelberg Military Hospital in Melbourne, where he drew in graphic detail the wounds of veterans. In this series, as in other works from this period, Tucker projects his sense of revulsion onto the female figure using the crescent mouth, the red stripes of the American flag and the severe, even brutal distortions and truncations of the body he would have seen at the hospital, as pictorial signs of the Americans’ ‘invasion’.

Albert Tucker was born in Footscray, Melbourne, in 1914. He had no formal art training beyond a single term at the George Bell School in 1937. During the 1930s, Tucker worked as a house painter, freelance illustrator, cartoonist and writer.

Between 1943 and 1947, he played a key role in the Contemporary Art Society’s battle against conservatism in Australian art. During World War Two, in Victoria, Tucker was required to make meticulous drawings of gas burns, bayonet cuts and other war injuries and, for a short time in 1947, he was an official artist with the occupation forces in Japan.

Late in 1947 Tucker left Australia and lived in England, Europe and the United States. In 1954 he held a joint exhibition in Rome with Sidney Nolan, both artists showing desert and frontier paintings that attracted critical attention.

Tucker’s work combines a distant mythic view of Australia and a sensitivity to European culture, and is represented in international, national, state and private galleries.

Discussion Questions

This artwork reflects the artist’s view on America’s relationship with Australia during World War Two. Describe the artist’s viewpoint making reference to the symbolism and aesthetic qualities that make up the painting.

Classroom Activities

War is a universal theme explored by artists across cultures and times. Their works offer tremendous insights into the attitudes, events and impacts of war. Conceptualise a work through which you can communicate your view of a recent or current war. Consider how you will manipulate scale, media, technique and aesthetics to convey your message.