Albert Tucker (1914–1999) photographed the people and places around him as a personal record—only later at the suggestion of others were these images printed for public display, revealing him as a fine photographer, an ‘accidental historian’ of the Heide circle and other artist communities in the late 1930s to mid-1940s in Melbourne. Though unposed and using available light, his photographs of artists, family and friends reveal a keen eye for composition and dramatic, even cinematic, use of light and shade.
This selection documents the life of artists from within their milieu, in solo and group portraits and images of spaces they lived and worked in. Tucker captures artists both in individual portraits and group shots that convey a sense of shared enterprise, friendships, and extended social networks. A few later photos from the 1960s allow us to see noted artists like Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan in youth and maturity. Several candid self-portraits show Tucker directing the camera at a mirror, while Joy Hester, a frequent portrait subject, is shown in a range of different lights.
The artist’s studio is a subject of particular focus in the 1940s, and a later image of Cezanne’s atelier in Aix en Provence continues this theme. While a few photographs show fellow Melbourne artists at work, many focus on the studio interiors themselves. We see domestic rooms doubling as improvised work spaces, in which art is integrated into daily life—brushes, paints and canvases intermingle with personal effects. Other images depict views through studio windows of the inner-city streets of Melbourne’s past.
Tucker documented artists’ living spaces, ranging from modest inner-city digs to the relative luxury of Heide I and various artist hubs in the outer suburbs of Melbourne: Justus Jorgensen’s Montsalvat in Eltham and the Boyd family’s Open Country in Murrumbeena—both sites for artist enclaves; Adrian Lawlor’s striking, Bauhaus-inspired house in Warrandyte; and Danila Vassilieff’s extraordinary residence Stonygrad. Vassilieff built his home from local stone, making concrete his belief that ’art should be lived’, one that seems to imbue the convivial and fluid milieu to which Tucker belonged.