“What am I trying to express? – I think human weakness through the vulnerable figure without extracting its dignity no matter how uncertain… this is why distortion and the element of drama [are] ever present” – George Baldessin
Printmaker and sculptor George Baldessin was born in North Italy, before moving to Australia with his family in 1949. He studied at RMIT from 1958 to 1961 and later at the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1962. He continued further study at the Brera Academy of Fine Art Milan from 1962 – 63.
His surrealist inspired works frequently incorporated silver and gold leaf. During the 1970’s Baldessin worked in a studio in the Olderfleet building on Collins St in Melbourne with fellow artists Tate Adams, Les Kossatz, Andrew Sibley, Roger Kemp, Fred Williams and Jan Senbergs.
Baldessin held his first solo exhibition at the Argus Gallery on the fourth floor of the old Argus newspaper building in Elizabeth Street in 1964 and completed the now iconic pears sculpture installation outside the National Gallery of Australia before his death in 1978. Memorial exhibitions were held at Realities Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria, the later of which toured several state galleries.
The Heide museum held a retrospective of Baldessin’s drawings in 1991 and the Art Gallery of New South Wales featured him as a focus artist in 1999. During his life Baldessin was awarded the Alcorso Sekers Travelling Scholarship for sculpture in 1966, the Maitland Prize for prints in 1967 and 1970, prizes at the Ljubljana Biennale of Printmaking in 1967 and the Second International Biennale of Drawing in Yugoslavia in 1970. He won the Geelong Print Prize in 1970 and the Comalco Invitation Award for sculpture in 1971.
A studio and print workshop was founded at Baldessin’s studio in St Andrews, Victoria and in 1998 a Baldessin Foundation Travelling Scholarship was established for travelling sculptors.
Baldessin’s work is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; all state galleries and regional galleries including Ballarat, Geelong, Mildura, Mornington, Sale, Warrnambool, Newcastle, Fremantle, Launceston and University collections including Melbourne University, Monash, Hobart and internationally at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2009 Australian Galleries published George Baldessin: Paradox and Persuasion, a monograph on the artist’s work.
Image above: Martin King strangerlands II, after W Strutt, Black Thursday 1851 2021 graphite, watercolour, gouache, pastel and gold leaf on …