John Perceval

Boy Crying in a Carlton Street 1944


Australian and International Fine Art and Sculpture

9 July 2020

Lot 24

Despite its conservatively low estimate (Aus $30,000-$40,000), this medium size painting carries significant weight in terms of Australian art history and the artist's engagement with local and international themes of uncertainty and dislocation. Completed in 1944, the motif is one of abandoned childhood set amidst forlorn inner city terraces.

John De Burgh Perceval grew up in Melbourne during the difficult thirties and later developed his drive to depict modern anxieties which held no place within a conservative art establishment of the time. He's part of a progressive group along with the likes of Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester, Sidney Nolan, and Albert Tucker.

Throughout the Second World War, Australians were mostly unaware of movements shaping European art since Impressionism. Young Melbourne artists like John Perceval gained insight through imported publications available from Gino Nibbi's bookshop on Collins Street. They were also influenced by well travelled artists like Danila Vassilieff whose initial experience of modernism came directly from the European context.

This painting to be auctioned as Lot Number 24 has been exhibited in important surveys of the Melbourne modernist painting group along with the artist's own retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria. While not the most comforting image, it does reflect upon the mood of a particular moment in Australia's history.

Price realised at auction: Aus $40,500 hammer price + BP