The last train

Born Sydney, Australia 1928, lived London 1961–66

Charles Blackman spent his childhood in Queensland before leaving school at thirteen to work as a commercial illustrator for the Sydney Sun newspaper whilst studying art at East Sydney Technical College (1943–46). Blackman subsequently moved to Melbourne and exhibited at the Contemporary Art Society, where his paintings of uniformed schoolgirls first attracted attention.

Paintings on the theme of Alice in Wonderland commenced in 1956 and continued into the late 1960s. These works conflate two subjects, the Lewis Carroll epic Alice in Wonderland and Blackman’s constant muse, his wife Barbara. The Carroll book was one that Blackman read to Barbara due to her fading eyesight in the mid-1950s.

The late 1950s were formative for Blackman, who experimented technically with tempera and pigment while developing the cast of characters and devices in these expressionist compositions.

In 1960 Blackman won the Helena Rubinstein Scholarship and several other awards, allowing him to move to London where he lived from 1961 until 1966. Blackman returned to Sydney, receiving an OBE for services to art in 1977. The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, staged the first major retrospective of Blackman’s work, Schoolgirls and Angels (1993), and organised the Alice in Wonderland exhibition in 2006. Blackman’s work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all state and many regional galleries, university collections and major international museums.