Images of modern evil
Albert Tucker painted the Images of modern evil series between 1943 and 1948 in response to his experiences in Melbourne during the Second World War. Tucker’s war service as an artist in the Heidelberg Military Hospital had a profound influence on his art of the 1940s. During this time Tucker also became deeply concerned about what he felt was a loss of morality in society on an individual level, as well on a grand scale.
The series conveys a sense of the anxiety and surreal atmosphere of wartime Australia. The city at night became a backdrop for Tucker’s investigation of the human condition and he exploited the eerie qualities of brown-outs and black-outs. His evocative paintings are often populated by men and women shown as elemental, visceral, sexual beings; soldiers and women of the night. Their exaggerated bright-red crescent mouths have become the leitmotif of this series.
During this period, Tuckerand his contemporaries, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, John Perceval and Joy Hester, created striking modern images that convey the upheaval of the era. They drew on the influences of German Expressionism and European Surrealism to create highly personal, evocative and often controversial images that are now widely recognised as an important turning point in the story of Modernism in Australian art.
The National Gallery of Australia is the main repository of work from this powerful series through the generosity of the artist and his widow, Barbara Tucker.