GEORGE BALDESSIN—TARRAWARRA MUSEUM OF ART

BaldessinGEORGE BALDESSIN WAS only 39 when he died in 1978 and is no star performer in the stiflingly ordinary Australian art auction market—in large part due to his dogged focus on printmaking and sculpture, the unloved siblings of Modernist painting.

Stories of his ‘bohemian’ lifestyle and prickly charm, peppered with anecdotes of an ambiguous sexuality, are much of what has kept his reputation alive at all. As former National Gallery of Victoria Director Patrick McCaughey remembers, his life and art were inextricably interwoven: ‘as man and artist [he] was enigmatic and vivid, secretive and theatrical … He was a mildly but persistently intimidating presence.’

Yet among many cognoscenti of 20th Century Australian art, particularly other artists, a deep respect for his extraordinary work lives on. TarraWarra Museum of Art is holding a survey exhibition curated by Maudie Palmer and Elizabeth Cross, GEORGE BALDESSIN, running through to 14 March 2010—prints, sculpture, watercolour, paintings and photographs of the artist have been sourced from public and private collections as well as the artist’s estate. To coincide with the exhibition, Australian Galleries have teamed with author Harriet Edquist and the George Baldessin Estate to publish a 260 page monograph, GEORGE BALDESSIN: PARADOX & PERSUASION.

The works in this magical exhibition and publication are sexy, surreal, and dark—everything that we at AP like in our art. All deaths are premature, depending on your perspective, but it is tempting to consider what Baldessin’s ongoing contribution to Australian Modernism might have been had we not lost him so young.