Roy Dalgarno – Labour Day
Penrith Regional Gallery staging special exhibition to commemorate Dalgarno family gift
Autumn Exhibition Suite 2019
30 March – 16 June
you only have one life, and what you have to do is realise yourself in the only way you feel is genuine and not through other people’s eyes – Roy Dalgarno
Penrith Regional Gallery in Emu Plains opens a new exhibition with 13 prints out of 92 artworks by Roy Dalgarno recently gifted to the PRG collection by the Dalgarno family. The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see Dalgarno’s artworks depicting miners alongside social history objects on loan from the Lithgow State Mine Heritage Park.
Roy Dalgarno (1910 – 2001) was an Australian artist committed to portraying humanity in workers’ labour as they built the wealth of the modern Australian nation. Dalgarno looked for his subjects down mines, on the wharves, on factory floors and in steelworks. He made drawings of miners, dock workers and sheet metal workers from life and then created expressive yet realistic prints. Dalgarno expertly utilised the dramatic graphic potential of printmaking throughout his career to depict the stoic character of manual labourers. He had an enduring interest in realism in art as a way of representing the dignity and harsh reality of working life.
“This is a really exciting addition to the outstanding Penrith Regional Gallery collection. The inclusion of this series of artworks, generously gifted by the Dalgarno family, enables us to tell a deeper story of modernism in Sydney. He is a compelling artist,” said Sheona White, Director (Interim) Penrith Regional Gallery.
“As we get far enough away to see it in perspective, it becomes clear that social realism is as essential a part of modernism as abstraction, and almost forgotten social realist artists like Roy Dalgarno suddenly loom up out of the darkness like the mine workers in his paintings, monumental, battered, barely recognisable.” Ian Milliss, artist and catalogue essay author.
Dalgarno trained as a commercial lithographer in the late 1920s and was influenced by European artists such as Honoré Daumier, George Grosz and Otto Dix. He studied art at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne, Dattilo Rubbo’s Studio and the National Art School, East Sydney Technical College in Sydney, the Ecole des Beaux Arts and William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris. His practice was shaped by the artistic and bohemian crowd he socialised and studied with as a young man. Dalgarno’s beliefs reflected a growing mood for societal change that was largely encouraged by the enduring hardship and despair of two world wars and the great economic depression of the 1930s.
Dalgarno was well read and attracted to the rebellious undertones in some of the literature. He was fascinated by the ‘human condition’ and in 1945 was a founding member of S.O.R.A (Studio of Realist Art, Sydney). This was an artists’ group which aimed to “bring art into closer relationship to contemporary life” according Bernard Smith, known as Australia’s most important art historian.
Roy Dalgarno – Labour Day celebrates modernism through social realism in Australian art and commemorates the gift to the community of Penrith of prints from a fascinating Australian artist.