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Australian art Expressionism & Social Realism

During the years immediately preceding World War II and over the following decade, a number of artists drew on techniques from European Expressionism, Surrealism and Social Realism in response to the context and atmosphere of the times. 

A close group of young Melbourne-based artists developed forms of Expressionism through the distortion of figures as well as their use of strong colours and dynamic compositions.  The paintings of Albert Tucker and John Perceval from this time particularly convey the collective anxiety, violence and suffering of the period, while Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan created some of the most distinctly Australian images of this era.  Boyd turned for inspiration to the Bible and created Australian myths to express the horror of war and Nolan developed his own very distinctive approach to representations of Australian history. Joy Hester’s works on paper are concerned with themes of love and lovers, yet go beyond literal representation, suggesting the ambiguities of relationships from a deeply personal viewpoint.

Artists such as Noel Counihan and Yosl Bergner drew on the techniques of Social Realist art to produce emotive images of a world at war and workers and their working lives during the Great Depression.