Discovering Charles Meere: Art and Allusion

30 June 2017

Who is Charles Meere? The name probably doesn’t resonate, but his iconic painting Australian Beach Pattern that features on the cover of a new book, Discovering Charles Meere: Art and Allusion, published by Halstead Press and written by Joy Eadie, is one you’ll recognise.

Now part of the Art Gallery of NSW’s collection it is a favourite in their postcard reproduction sales with its stylised Art Deco images cavorting on a beach and painted in 1940.

Launched at the Drill Hall Gallery by director Terence Maloon, chatting with author Joy Eadie while the Friends of the Drill Hall gallery and many guests taking another opportunity to enjoy the current exhibition Robert Boynes Modern Times imbibing and nibbling as we love to do, it was enlightening to hear about this artist and look at his work from a different perspective.  

Charles Meere was born in England and first visited Australia in 1927, working for a short time as a graphic designer, but returned to England to continue his studies. He must have liked what he saw and emigrated with a new wife in 1933.

I read with interest a biography Joy Eadie wrote about those early days and discovered a man who extended his art practice in many ways including working as an illustrator for the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald with the ALP commissioning a pen and ink drawing of Ben Chiffley for the 1949 election campaign. Published in newspapers and the Australian Women’s Weekly, it is a charming drawing you can find online.

Meere had many talents. He was a commercial artist, he taught life drawing at East Sydney Technical College- insisting that the models be nude as was the European practice- while continuing his art practice and exhibiting. His work encompassed landscape, still life, portraiture, mural design and his black and white illustrations.

The critics were not impressed. But as often is the case history has been kinder with Australian Beach Pattern used in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics and included in the 2013 Australian Art exhibition at the London National Gallery.

Eadie’s book brings to life the consummate Charles Meere in her ‘discovery’ process as she examines his paintings, finds influences we as art lovers don’t necessarily seek and enhances his reputation.