The Panama Hat

A friend of mine has been posting examples of paintings from of the Meldrum school on social media recently, much to my delight. Landscapes, portraits, flowers and still life paintings by my heroes or may I say my forebears.

Works by Max Meldrum himself and his followers like Archibald Colquhoun, John Farmer, Percy Leason and Alan Martin and other associates have for many years thrilled me with their simplicity and visual truth since I first saw examples in the early 1970’s.

My first teacher, Shirley Bourne O.A.M. might not have liked to be aligned with Meldrum but could not deny a connection via her teacher, Sir William Dargie, who was taught by Archibald Colquhoun. Even so, she taught me the tonal method and gave me a real grounding in the discipline . My second teacher Alan Martin, was a student of Meldrum from his teens and remained in the studio for a decade at least, so I became familiar with this group as I learned the methods they employed. I have never regretted a minute of time that I spent over the years under their tutelage.

Being in ‘lockdown’ I am not able to secure models so I have resorted to that good old standby, the self portrait. I have a 100 year old shaving mirror which belonged to my grandfather and which approximates a 10″x8″ canvas. Using this mirror I have so far completed three ‘selfies’ in the last two years. This latest effort was inspired by a portrait by Archibald Colquhuon and posted on instagram last week. I also have fond memories of a couple of his self portraits especially one which is in the National Gallery of Victoria, showing him with a model and the painting of her in the background. This wonderful painting is visible at Well worth a look! As my friend John, also a Martin student would say, “When I grow up.”

Don James

4th September 2021

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