The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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The drunkard 1950
Print, intaglio, etching and aquatint, printed in 3 colours
image 28.4 h x 38.4 w cm
Gift of Veronica Rowan 1975.
more detail

David Strachan

11 February 1980

James Gleeson: There’s no inscription on the one that we’ve got the photograph of, so I take it we do have two copies of that vignette. Now we come to The drunkard and, although we don’t have a version of the final etching, we seem to have two drawings, preliminary drawings for it, and two trial proofs for it. We have one drawing illustrated. Well, I don’t know whether we’ve got two drawings or we’ve got two cards for the same drawing.

David Strachan: Untitled working drawing, drawing for etching. I think it’s very difficult. Signed—

James Gleeson: The measurements are—the only thing that makes me doubt it here, on one card they say there’s no inscription, whereas quite clearly there is an inscription on that card, A167.

David Strachan: That would be Bill Salmon’s number, I would say.

James Gleeson: So I would think that this probably came in—ah, it did. Or did it? It came in the 10th ‘54. No, it came in the same date.

David Strachan: Came in the same date and came in the same thing.

James Gleeson: Yes. So the possibility is that it’s two different cards for the same drawing. The possibility remains that we could have two versions of it. So that will have to be checked out in our collection. All right.

David Strachan: Just as a matter of interest, earlier you asked me to check through and see if there were any discrepancies. See on the back here this information that he was born in Salisbury England in 1919, Adelaide 1921. Well, by then my father was in Creswick, because brother Michael was born in 1921 in December in Creswick and father had been there for quite some time. This actually is something I’ll check with Mama, the date in which they came to Creswick. Because I think it was in—

James Gleeson: Earlier than that.

David Strachan: I think it was earlier than that.

James Gleeson: I see. We probably got that information from Alan McCulloch’s book.

David Strachan: It could be.

James Gleeson: I know he’s not always absolutely accurate in detail.

David Strachan: But these are sort of fiddly little details that I’d better check up.

James Gleeson: All right?

David Strachan: Okay.

James Gleeson: Good. Talking about dates, you know, so many people have assumed that because David was born in Salisbury in England in 1919 that he was English, that he came from an English family and you moved out here afterwards. But that’s not true. You’d been an Australian family for many, many generations before that.

David Strachan: That’s right. The first one came out in about 1830 to Hobart and he was one of the first silversmiths in Tasmania, listed in the book on silver there. My mother is English but her family had been out in Sydney town in the 1840?s, or some members of them. In fact, one of them was in Gosford in 1856. I have a letter from him written back to the family in England talking about the oranges on the trees in midwinter and so forth. So we’ve been mixed up.

James Gleeson: To get back to Accent and hazard, we seem to have no final proof of The drunkard, but we have two trial proofs which are just tentatively listed as the first trial proof, because it apparently has two colours, two colour etching and aquatint, and an ex- trial print with three colours. Does that seem to be right to you? Did David use three colours in that Drunkard one?

David Strachan: Yes.

James Gleeson: He did?

David Strachan: I think he did. Let’s look in the book and see.

James Gleeson: Well, we’ve checked and there are three colours. He’s used black, ochre and red. I can’t remember having seen the two trial proofs, but I think what is most logical is that we’ve got one with the black and ochre without the red, because that seems to be an overprint to get this sort of orange-y colour. Then we’ve got a final proof with the red added. Anyway, we can check that out by looking at the two proofs.

David Strachan: I would say so.


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