Exhibitions of Paintings by James R. Jackson
7 December 20102 to 27 January 2013: 'Early Impressions: James R. Jackson (1882 - 1975)', Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Manly/Sydney
Essay from 'Early Impressions: James R. Jackson (1882 - 1975)' 7/12/20102 to 27/01/2013, Manly Art Gallery & Museum
The spark that inspired this
focus exhibition was the painting that launched an art gallery: Middle Harbour from Manly Heights, painted
in 1923 by James Ranalph Jackson. So concerned about the future of the work was
the local art community that they contacted Manly’s Mayor, stating, ‘it would
be a distinct loss and almost a catastrophy (sic) if the prize winning picture
… should pass out of the district of Manly …’
The one hundred pounds to
secure the painting was raised by public subscription by October 1924, making
it the first painting for the collection of the yet to be established Manly Art
Today, we are mostly
familiar with Jackson’s later paintings of Sydney Harbour. The paintings he
created up to the 1920s are rarely on display however, and probably unknown to
most art observers. We believe these early works are his best and wanted to
bring them together to help re-evaluate an outstanding impressionist artist whose
early talent has been largely forgotten.
The works in this exhibition
have been brought together from far and wide: state and regional public collections
and several private collectors from New South Wales and Victoria have graciously
agreed to contribute their works to this exhibition.
Jackson’s paintings were
amongst the first in at least two other regional galleries: Director Peter
Perry has just discovered that Reflections,
1916, was the first purchase of the Castlemaine Art Gallery. Artist John
Salvana (1865 – 1943) donated Pathway to
the Sea, 1917, together with 75 other artworks, to Tamworth in 1919 so the
town could establish a public gallery; he had acquired the painting from the
Royal Art Society exhibition in 1917. Both works were allowed to travel from
their permanent homes to feature prominently in this exhibition.
These facts illustrate that a
considerable number of public art institutions were purchasing the works of this
contemporary emerging Australian artist at a time when they were fresh and new.
Jackson was to draw his
inspiration from one of his childhood impressions: Sydney Harbour, which first
inspired an eight year old Jimmy in 1890, when the Jackson family – father
George Albert with his eleven children – moved from New Zealand to Darlinghurst
after the mother’s death.
From a young age Jackson
loved to draw and so was apprenticed to a city decorator. In an interview with
Hazel de Berg in 1965 he recalled that ‘they employed these semi-artists to end
work decorations in the room … I am scribbling on one of the walls. And the
fellow came in and said, look Jimmy, you have some fun drawing and scribbling
around, so why don’t you take lessons?’
Soon after Jackson attended evening
classes with Frank Mahony (1862 – 1916) and later on studied with the Royal Art
Society. As many artists aspired to then (and now), Jackson hoped to study in
Europe and learn from the masters there, both by taking lessons and studying the
works of the greats in European art galleries.
But first, he wanted to
study in Melbourne with Bernard Hall (1859 – 1935), Director of the National Gallery
of Victoria and head of its art school. Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917) saw Jackson’s
paintings in Melbourne and encouraged the young artist.
However Hall had no
time, and after three weeks an impatient Jackson returned to Sydney, determined
to go at once to London. He managed to get a very cheap passage via New Zealand
and Cape Horn (Bertram Stevens, Art in
Australia number 3, 1917).
Curators' talk at the exhibition
The year was 1906, and by
sheer luck Jackson immediately secured a place to study at Frank Brangwyn’s
(1867 – 1956) Hammersmith studio, where he learnt the fundamentals of painting,
the use of impasto and the importance of colours. Jackson remembers: ‘…
[Brangwyn] put me right on how to get colour and tone and he was very proud of
However, London was
expensive even then, and Jackson continues: ‘My money was running short and I
thought that it was very much cheaper to live in Paris. So I went over to
Paris. I joined up with the Academy Colarossi …’ (de Berg interview)
The year then spent in continental
Europe in 1907 proved to be pivotal for the 25 year old Jackson. The light in
the works of Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) and Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
impressed him. However it was the battle scenes of Algiers by Aimé Morot (1850
– 1913), with their brilliant sunlight so reminiscent of Australia, that for
Jackson left a deeper mark. In Paris, he also saw, ‘… the fine open-air
paintings of Emanuel Phillips-Fox, some of whose work he had seen in Sydney,
and they had a more pronounced influence upon him than any other’. (Stevens).
Early Impressions Exhibition: Images of Europe and Sydney Harbour
Several works in this
exhibition created in that year convey the artist’s burst of youthful energy: Passeo Pollenza, Spain (New England
Regional Art Museum), Bridge at Chiogga,
Venice, (National Gallery of Victoria) and Canal Brescon, Martigues, France, (Benalla Art Gallery). It was in Martigues
that Jackson met Augustus John (1878 – 1961) who also complimented him on his
work (de Berg interview).
Europe, and in particular,
Venice worked its magic on Jackson as it had on other Australian artists: Tom
Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Emanuel Phillips-Fox and Ethel Carrick Fox.
Jackson put his European
experience in perspective: ‘Go, but do not stay … What I saw of Australian
artists’ work in England, made me feel that though they had gained in
technique, they had lost in spontaneity and emotional value. On my return to
Australia I went to look again at Streeton’s Purple Noon’s Transparent Might. I thought it better than the great
majority of modern landscapes I had seen in London or Paris …’ (Stevens).
Jackson also greatly admired
Tom Roberts, whom he met and described as ‘… an extremely simple, kind and
resourceful type of fella, and very proud and very lenient towards any other
The influence of such iconic
Australian impressionist artists’ work is certainly visible in Jackson’s work after
his return to Australia in 1908. One example may be North Harbour, dating from the same year and lent by a private
collection for this exhibition.
Jackson joined the Royal Art
Society of New South Wales in 1908. In the same year he exhibited for the first
time in an RAS group show – and immediately found a celebrity admirer as he
recalls in the de Berg interview: ‘My first patron of the arts was Madam Melba
… After that the Sydney Gallery bought, then Melbourne, New Zealand, and the National
Gallery of America. I have many pictures in America, and England, London,
Note from Dame Nellie Melba to Jackson, 8 August 1921
This artistic and commercial
success is also documented in numerous newspaper reports. An early example from
The Sydney Morning Herald of 14 November 1914 reads: ‘Oleanders … is the principal contribution made by this painter to
this year’s show, and is probably the best work he has painted.’ The Art
Gallery of NSW bought the painting for 150 guineas, as the paper reported on 8
November 1914. It is the largest painting in this exhibition, and perhaps the
largest work Jackson ever painted.
It may be that this work
also marked the beginning of a series of genre paintings featuring young women:
Lady with parasol, 1914, Morning in the studio, 1915, or After the rehearsal, 1917.
portrait of a known sitter in this exhibition however is Dora with parasol, 1917, of his future wife Dora Toovey (1898 – 1986),
an artist in her own right.
Early Impressions Exhibition: Portraits and Sydney's Northern Beaches
From the same period originated
the leisurely scenes of ladies boating, often with a protective parasol: The holiday, and The dreamer, both from 1916; The
pathway to the sea, 1917, Boating,
1918, and Lady with parasol and boating party,
1916. These figurative paintings evoke works by other great Australian painters
of a leisurely, elegant world that was now rapidly disappearing: Emanuel
Phillips-Fox, Rupert Bunny, Charles Conder and Tom Roberts.
… [In] London, I felt that the artists had a very difficult time due to the
fog, and the light is not very good. But in Australia it’s fascinating, and the
light and the colour and a beautiful sunlight which is an essence of an artist
light actually. … It’s very brilliant
and very difficult, and I feel that of all the countries (and I have been to
quite a number) I would like to live in, is Australia. I feel that Australia
has a great opportunity for being a very fine artist’s country.’
The young Dora Toovey was
studying painting with Jackson; they fell in love and were married in 1924. The
couple embarked on a trip to Europe in 1926, travelling through France, Italy
and Switzerland, Paris and London, the Pyrenees and Spain. They returned to
Sydney in 1928, and both exhibited works from this inspirational journey.
Jackson’s paintings again were reviewed favourably in the local media.
The works in this exhibition
demonstrate how beautifully the early career Jackson handled light and shade. His
impressionist colour palette with soft blues and greens sets off the effects of
light reflected on gently moving water. The composition – from the European
landscapes to the Venetian boat scenes and the Sydney Harbour impressions – pulls
these elements together to make them stand-out paintings in his oeuvre.
The very fact that public
institutions acquired so many of Jackson’s early works proves there was a real appreciation
of his work. They only rarely become available today to private collectors, but
when they do, they are highly sought-after, not just because of their scarcity,
but also because of their inherent quality.
Jackson held his first solo
exhibition in 1920 at the Gayfield Shaw Art Salon, and continued to exhibit in group
exhibitions until the 1960s. From 1916 to 1933, Jackson exhibited also in
Melbourne on a regular basis as a member of the Australian Art Association,
gathering a loyal following there, too. Jackson became an art educator himself,
teaching drawing and painting at the RAS from 1917 to 1926. Several landscapes
from this period are represented in this exhibition, amongst them Beach scene, North Narrabeen, 1926, North Harbour, 1927, or View to Cockatoo Island, 1929.
Jackson was an Australian painter of light, as he
told Hazel de Berg:
We hope that you enjoy this
unique opportunity to get to know works that are rarely seen and have been
assembled together for the first time. And we hope that you agree that James R.
Jackson’s early paintings deserve greater recognition and scholarly attention.
Essay Copyright Manly Art Gallery & Museum and Brigitte Banziger and David Hulme, reproduced with permission
Lou Klepac's opening address on 7 December 2012 of Early Impressions - James R. Jackson
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very
pleased to have
been asked to open this impo1iant exhibition. It is most appropriate for the Manly
Gallery to recognise the importance of this, today , neglected artist - the Gallery owes
it to him, in a way. It was his painting 'Middle Harbour from
Manly heights' painted
in 1923 which won the inaugural Manly Prize in 1924 which inspired the local community to want to acquire the work - in order that it should
be the first painting in the collection of a yet to be established Manly Art Gallery.
I urge you
to read the catalogue introduction to find out
this and a lot more about this diminutive painter
- he was 5 foot 3, and one of the finest landscape painters active in Sydney in the first
decades of the 20th
Lou Klepac opening the exhibition, 7 December 2012
There is a book on his
work written by his daughter, published by Bay Books in 1991 where you can find all you need to know about him and see the full range of his activity
What I want to consider tonight
is why he has been neglected in the recent past. He is not the only artist to suffer neglect,
but he was an exceptionally gifted painter and the lack of public
interest has made me consider
the reason why .
Last night I had a look at artprice .com to see what paintings by Jackson had passed through the auctions and what prices they had fetched during the last 12
It is an indictment of our art loving public that such fine works have sold for a fraction of the price of an etching by Fred Williams
was that being born in 1882 (a year after Picasso)
he was 20 years too late for the kind of gift that he had as a painter.
And it might also have been better if he had been born 20 years later.
At an earlier date, he would have been the contemporary of Streeton and Conder and would have been right there in the period when artists were fired with visual nationalism,
the spirit that inspired the Heidelberg
If born later, he would have been more prone to take note of the work of a
painter like Cezanne. Today, Robert
Johnson, who is a very fine painter,
is dismissed whereas
Wakelin who with Roy de Maistre made all those experiments about music
and colour has a good
the history of
Australian painting - though he was certainly much less gifted as a painter than Jackson. Both
lived to a ripe old age
Godfrey Miller, interested in theosophy and mysticism left a meticulous and original vision as well as a legend
about his solitary
lifestyle and is highly
The 20th century has been obsessed with the idea of
modernism. There is hardly a book that does not talk about this concept
- and everything is measured
against it. The fact that modernism has continued to dominate our views of art has distorted
the true nature
of art, and is responsible for the neglect of many fine painters.
Eventually, and here we are in the 21st century,
we will need to redress
the wrongs done to some artists in the cause of modernism.
It is time for reparation. Modernism is no longer a relevant
gauge with which
to go and measure the achievement of painters. So thank you to the Manly Art Gallery and the curators
who have put together this exhibition.
The only good thing I can say about this is that it is possible for someone with an unprejudiced eye, to acquire
paintings of real quality for a very
If you consider a painting like 'The Old Road, South Coast' 1934 which is equal in quality to some of Lloyd Rees's works of the same period -you will see how neglected Jackson
is, when you compare Jackson's prices to those of Lloyd Rees.
born in 1895, was 13 years younger,
but when you examine a painting like Jackson's 'The Holiday'
painted in 1916, this
fantastic painting is superior to anything Lloyd did in the 1920s
when he was the same
age as Jackson.
It is interesting to consider Jackson
in relation to the group
of three other important artists who have made a significant contribution to Australian painting all of whom hailed from New Zealand.
The witty remark made by Robert Muldoon,
when he was Prime Minister
of New Zealand that when New Zealanders moved to Australia the IQ went up in both countries may be true generally, but not in the case of these artists.
1887-1971 Robert Johnson
and the oldest of these Jackson who was born in 1882.
He came to Sydney at a much younger age, although his family, (he had a lot of siblings), lived in New Zealand. He was just 8 years old when he came to Sydney, whereas Wakelin was 25, Johnson 31 and Miller 26.
It is, however, not all the fault of modernism. One further point needs to be made. Australia is not a land where the population
is really attuned to the art of painting.
Our affluence has created many collectors, but many of these collectors
collect by listening
rather than looking.
Art has become
fashionable, as drinking wine has become by people who once
looked down on those who drank plonk and never looked at a painting.
is an auction coming up on Sunday
with a fine landscape by Robert Johnson expected to bring 800 to1200 dollars, and in the same auction there is a rather ugly drawing by a fashionable Melbourne artist expected
to sell for 4000 to 6000 dollars.
Does it make sense?
Plug your ears and use your eyes, go and enjoy the exceptional painterly quality, freshness and the delight
in colour and light of these remarkable James Jackson paintings -
and then get yourself a bargain at the next auction.
Essay copyright Lou Klepac and reproduced with permission
1908 Royal Art Society (until 1974)
1909 March, Royal Art Society, Sydney: 9 of 69 paintings shown were by by Jackson at up to 30 guineas. Fellow exhibitors include Will Ashton and Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo
1911, 32nd annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: The Red Parasol by Jackson was offered for 75 guineas, from a selection of 11 works.
Other exhibitors are Sidney Long, Max Meldrum, Harold Septimus Power, A.J. Daplyn and Percy Spence
The Red Parasol, 117 x 107 cm, illustrated in the 1911 RAS exhibition catalogue
1912, August, 33rd annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney;
Jackson's painting The Crevice is illustrated
1913, August, 34th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: Works shown alongside Will Ashton, J.J. Hilder, B.E. Minns and W. Lister Lister
1913 Canberra Art Prize finalist
1914, November, 35th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: The exhibition includes Oleanders, which was purchased by the Art Gallery of NSW in 1914.
Works by Tom Roberts, A.H. Fullwood, Will Ashton, Antonio Dattilo-Rubb, Charles Bryant and Fred Leist are shown.
Oleanders, 127 x 117 cm, illustrated in the 1914 RAS exhibition catalogue
1915, October, 36th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society: 12 works by Jackson are shown, including Morning in the Studio, priced at 100 guineas, and A Summer's Morning at 200 guineas. Norman Carter, G.V.F. Mann and Charles Tindall exhibit amongst others
1916, September, 37th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society:
Image of the large figurative painting 1871 by Jackson is featured
Painting '1871', 112 x 101.5 cm, illustrated in the 1916 RAS exhibition catalogue
1916 Australian Artists' War Fund
1917, September, 38th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society: Jackson
exhibits alongside Ethel Carrick Fox, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Charles
Conder, Elioth Gruner, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay and Thea Proctor
RAS council members, 1917. James R. Jackson on left with hat
1918 Art Gallery of New South Wales Loan Exhibition
1918 Australian Arts Club Exhibition, Melbourne
1919 Australian Arts Club Exhibition, Sydney
1920 Gayfield Shaw Art Salon, Sydney: First solo exhibition
1921 Gayfield Shaw Art Salon: 2 group shows
1922 Solo exhibition at Decoration Galleries, Collins Street, Melbourne
1922 Bertram Stevens Memorial, Sydney
1923 Gift Exhibition, Farmers' Gallery, Sydney
1923 Exhibition of Australian Art at Burlington House, London.
Jackson is represented with two works: Drying Sails and Evening, Sydney Harbour.
Other artists included David Davies, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Margaret Preston, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Hugh Ramsey, Walter Withers, Thea Proctor, Norman Lindsay, Lloyd Rees, Eliot Gruner, Percy Lindsay, Penleigh Boyd, and many more
1923 Archibald Prize 1922 finalist, with Portrait of Hector Lamond and Portrait of Mr Cecil Hartt
1924 Empire Exhibition, London
1925 Loan Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria
1925 Anthony Hordern Gallery, Sydney, solo show
1926 May, New Gallery, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, solo show
1928 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, solo exhibition
1928 New Gallery, Melbourne, solo exhibition
1928 Anthony Hordern Gallery, Sydney, group exhibition of English and Australian artists
1929, Royal Art Society, Sydney, 50 years of Australian Art, Blaxland Galleries, Sydney
RAS members in 1919. Jackson in middle with hat
1929 Grosvenor Gallery, Sydney: Paintings of Sydney Harbour
1929 Winner State Theatre Art Quest, Sydney
1931 Wynne Prize 1930 finalist, Mount Tennant and Summer, Murrumbidgee
1932 Wynne Prize 1931 finalist, Turon River and The Barrington River
1933 Wynne Prize 1932 finalist, Gloucester from Cat Hill [sic] and The Gloucester River
1934 Centenary Art Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria
1935 Wynne Prize 1934 finalist, Old Road South Coast and The Beach, Stanwell Park
1936 Wynne Prize 1935, finalist, 4 works: Turon Hills; The Turon River; The Home of Wm. Farrar [sic], Federal Capital Territory; and Drying Sails
1936, May, Fine Art Society's Gallery, Melbourne: solo exhibition of 46 oil paintings by Jackson
1937 Wynne Prize 1936 finalist, Landscape; and Headlands, Newport
1937, June, David Jones Gallery, Melbourne: Solo exhibition of 64 paintings priced from 18 to 160 guineas
1937 Artists of the British Empire Overseas Exhibition, The Royal Institute Galleries, London
1937 Exposition International, Paris
1937 (until 1946) Australian Academy of Art group shows
1938 150 Years of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales
1938 Group of 15 Independent Artists (until 1945)
1938 Wynne Prize 1937 finalist, The Spit, Sydney
1938, July, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: Solo show with 50 paintings
1939 Wynne Prize 1938 finalist, Western Farm Land and Western Landscape
1940 Wynne Prize 1939 finalist, Evening Landscape near Canberra; and Junction of the Cotter River, F.C.
1940, September, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: Solo exhibition with 35 paintings
1941 Australian art touring North America
1941 Wynne Prize 1940 finalist, The Valley of Jugiong; and Monaro Country
1942 Wynne Prize 1941 finalist, Landscape, Canberra
1942 George MacKay, Manly Warringah Prize finalist
1942 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne, solo exhibition
1946 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne, solo show with 50 paintings
1947 Artists Past and Present, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne
1947 Centennial Galleries, Brisbane
1949 Wynne Prize 1948 finalist, Western Landscape NSW
1949, Group Show 'Works of 12 Artists, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: alongside works by Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Hans Heysen
1950 Artists Past and Present, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne
1950 Wynne Prize 1949 finalist, Seascape and Luna Park
1951 Wynne Prize 1950 finalist, Northern Landscape, Bellingen NSW; and A Country Town
1952 Wynne Prize 1951 finalist, Old North Sydney; and Kangarooby Ranges
1954 Wynne Prize 1953 finalist, The Quarry at St. Peter's, NSW; and Autumn, Bourke NSW
1954 Moreton Galleries, Brisbane, first solo show in Queensland
1955 Wynne Prize 1954 finalist, Morning, Cotter Crossing, ACT; and Landscape, Cotter Crossing ACT
1956 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: group show
1957 Wynne Prize 1956 finalist, Landscape, Bermagui, NSW; and Landscape, Bellingen NSW
1959 Moreton, Galleries, Brisbane, solo exhibition
1960 Winner Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales Prize
1961 Winner W.D. and H.O. Wills Prize
1961 Wynne Prize 1960 finalist, Deserted Mines, Sunny Corner NSW; and Autumn Clouds, Bellingen
1962 Wynne Prize 1961 finalist, Central West
1962 Winner Manly Art Prize
1962 Winner Grafton Art Prize
1963 Art Gallery of New South Wales: 175th Anniversary of the Founding of Australia exhibition
1966 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show
1970 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show
1972 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show
2012 Early Impressions - James R. Jackson, focus exhibition at Manly Art Gallery & Museum