Exhibitions / Kenneth Jack Power and Passion

07.10.2012 to 28.10.2012



Kenneth Jack Power and Passion 2012 Exhibition Catalogue

POWER AND PASSION  celebrates the achievement of an artist of international standing. The paintings and graphics in this exhibition have been made available for sale from the Jack family private collection. Many of the works included in this exhibition are well known, with images appearing in books and publications about the life and art of Kenneth Jack, however some of the highlights of this show have not been available since the 1950s.


Kenneth Jack is recognized nationally and internationally as a master painter and one of the most progressive teachers of his day.


Jack has been the recipient of numerous prizes and awards. In recognition of his services to art Jack received the Order of Australia (AM) and Member of the British Empire (MBE) medals. He was the first Australian to gain admission to Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours (RWS) in England.  He was also a member of the National Register of Prominent Americans and International Notables and a Life Fellow and Patron of the International Biographical Association (Cambridge, England). 


Kenneth Jack’s work appears in many famous national and international collections. His work is on display in every capital city art gallery in Australia. He has five hundred paintings and drawings in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and his work is in the National Collection in Canberra, Artbank and many regional public art galleries.


Jack’s work is also included in major university and library collections including the Mitchell Library, New South Wales; the La Trobe Library of Victoria and the National Library in Canberra. Numerous corporations also hold his work  These include Myer, the National Trust of South Australia, Broken Hill Associated Smelters and major banks and clubs.


Internationally he is represented in the collection of HM The Queen, HM the Queen Mother; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Cincinnati Art Museum; Kuala Lumpur Gallery, Malaysia and the Dunedan Art Gallery, New Zealand.


Kenneth Jack’s interest in art guided his choices from an early age. He was encouraged by his father, also an artist, who taught him to value what he did. As a student at Melbourne High School he studied geography and geology to better understand surface forms and masses for landscape painting. While undertaking his Leaving Certificate, he attended evening art classes three nights a week and Saturday morning at RMIT in preparation for both the Drawing Teachers Primary Certificate and Secondary Certificate exams. In his final school year at Melbourne High School he topped the state in art.


Following school Jack joined the Royal Australian Air Force. He was stationed for eighteen months at The Victoria Barracks in Melbourne where he met Harold Freedman, the art editor of the RAAF publishing section, who became a mentor to the young artist. Later, when Jack was stationed overseas, he sent Freedman drawings which were published in the RAAF wartime magazines. Although not an official war artist Jack’s valuable documentation of the war in New Guinea, Borneo and the Halmahera Islands is now in the collection of the War Memorial in Canberra. While in Labaun, Borneo, Jack met Donald Friend a twenty eight year old official war artist. He later wrote that Friend’s techniques influenced him for decades, although their final results were very different. This meeting was to have a lasting effect on Jack’s empathy for modernism.


When Jack returned to Australia in 1945 he was an experienced artist, confident in his career path. He resumed studying under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme at Melbourne Technical College with John Rowell. His drawing skills had come to the attention of Sydney Ure Smith who invited him to contribute illustrations to  architectural books of Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney. Smith also organized a solo exhibition of Jack’s drawings at the Grosvenor Galleries, Sydney where work by the young art was acquired for the first time by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. On completing his studies in 1947 Jack commenced a twenty-year career with the education department.


Jack proved to be an influential teacher and over time became responsible for changing the direction of art education. He guided students by allowing them to find their own path in art and became a mentor to many. In 1956 Jack was appointed full time senior instructor of Art at Caulfield Technical College, now part of Monash University. He used this senior appointment to establish a painting department and a separate printmaking department so by 1958 the College was able to offer a fine arts course rather than a trade course.


When he was not teaching Jack worked from his home studio. As well as painting he was a proficient printmaker. He had set up his first printmaking studio in his father’s garage in 1948 using a converted collar press from a Chinese laundry and dry point etching needles from used dental probes. He found the excitement of printing his own works inspirational. Printmaking gave him the opportunity to experiment and he became proficient in etching, engraving, woodblock printing, linocuts and serigraphs. In 1968 Jack retired from teaching to focus exclusively on his own work. For the next thirty years he travelled extensively on painting trips in Australia and throughout Europe.


A number of the painting and prints in this exhibition were shown for the first time in a touring exhibition titled The Kenneth Jack View which opened in 2010 at the Bundoora Homestead Art Center. The following year the works were exhibited again at the Castlemaine Art Gallery. Jack was a man of great personal integrity. In a career spanning more than sixty years he witnessed many changes in art direction and fashion but developed a style uniquely his own. This is an extraordinary exhibition and an opportunity not to be missed.