BROWN, Geoffrey Bruce
24 October 1926
16 October 2014
France 1952, England 1958-60
Art teacher | Artist (painter) | Printmaker
Worked: Australia (SA), England. Etchings, Lithographs, Screenprints
by Roger Butler
Geoffrey Brown was one of the many Australian artists who travelled to England and Europe in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.
Some artists such as Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd belonged to an older generation and had had to delay their pilgrimage for the duration of the war. Others like Geoffrey Brown and Fred Williams had only recently finished their studies and were looking forward to their first encounters with great old and modern masterpieces.
When Brown landed in England preparations for the Festival of Britain were underway; there was an air of vitality and a confidence in the arts. But it was not the grand subjects or wealthy scenes that provided Brown with his subject matter. He was an artist drawn to street life — its musicians, beggars, flower sellers and pub gossipers. Travelling through Europe he sought out great works by the masters of the genre — Rembrandt, Goya, Daumier and Picasso.
Few finished works were produced on the trip, and it was not until his return to Adelaide that he took up printmaking. When we talk about the revival of printmaking in Australia in the 1950s we normally concentrate on the extraordinary effervescence of activity that took place in Melbourne. We tend to forget that Adelaide has also had a sustained interest in the graphic arts, and that prints produced in the late 1940s by Adelaide artists such as Jacqueline Hicks and Christine Miller, are high points in Australian print history. At the time when few prints were being produced in Australia Brown was fortunate enough to see etchings being printed while he was a student at St. Peters College.
But on his return to Adelaide in 1952 it was not easy to come by tuition in the technique of etching in all its intricate variations. So, ‘with book in hand’, Brown explored the processes, even turning his hand to the exacting technique of multi-plate colour etching.
The subject matter of these paintings and prints remains true to the artist's initial observations — be they in Colombo, Bombay, Aden, Port Said, London or Paris. The local colours, textures and costumes change, but the identification with the people does not.