Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

Herbert Badham

(1899 - 1961)

oil on plywood

29.0 x 43.5 cm

signed lower right: HBADHAM

$40,000 - 60,000
Sold for $66,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Society of Artists, Sydney 1927
Private collection
Thirty Victoria Street, Sydney 1986
Private collection, Sydney
Thence by descent
Private collection, London


Society of Artists' Annual Exhibiton, Education Departments Gallery, Sydney, 10 September – 3 October 1927, cat. 150
Herbert Badham 1899 – 1961, Wollongong City Gallery, 27 August – 4 October 1987, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 10 October – 15 November 1987, cat. 1

Catalogue text

Al Fresco 1927 is a rare and significant example of one of Herbert Badham's earliest works. Having completed his studies at the Sydney Art School the year before, he exhibited Al Fresco in his first year with the Society of Artists. Moreover, years later it was catalogue number one in the definitive retrospective Badham exhibition shown at the Wollongong City Gallery and S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney in 1987. Painted shortly after Badham's marriage to Enid Wilson, Al Fresco presents a typically informal family glimpse into their unit at Vaucluse. His wife is joined at table (left to right) by her brother Reg, mother, and sister Mrs Crockett. As a family group portrait, it shows his early accomplishments in portraiture as well as his considerable compositional abilities, especially his inventive use of perspective. Badham not only exhibited a number of times in the Archibald Prize, but he was also runner-up to William Dobell in the 1932 New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship. His self-portraits are among his finest, examples from 1935, 1936 and circa 1939 being in the New England Regional Art Museum (Howard Hinton Collection).

As in this painting, he often engaged his friends as models in his subject paintings. In Travellers 1933, for example, Badham's sister Molly is the central figure with his brother Morris on the right. In the major painting, Temptation of St Anthony exhibited in the 1957 Blake Prize for Religious Art, foreground figures include Dorothy Thornhill, wife of Douglas Dundas sometime head of the National Art School, Peter Dodds a fellow teacher at the East Sydney Tech, Muriel Medworth and Susan Tooth, as well as his wife and, Alfred Hitchcock like, himself. A highly complex painting both compositionally and intellectually, Temptation of St Anthony makes extensive and creative use of perspective. Badham had a special interest in perspective having begun a thesis on its theory and practice. Al Fresco provides an early example of its inventive use, the brick wall and white tablecloth leading the eye into the picture's depth while table objects and figures tend to emphasise the picture's plane and achieve a mural-like effect. By such clever means Badham balances the informal - the alfresco or informal lunch - with a slightly more formal presentation in doors.

For his art, Badham drew on the world around him, usually relaxed in mood and activity. There are paintings of fairgrounds, town bands, the theatre, the cinema, and of pubs - London and Sydney - taken high in viewpoint or sociably there among the drinkers. An influential teacher and writer, Badham's role on the stage of Australian art is similar to that of Edward Hopper in the U.S.A, Stanley Spencer in the U.K., and those Germans of the Neue Sachlichkeit, his realism yet to be fully appreciated in his own country.