• Jack Thompson signs the Cleo 10th anniversary centrefold picture

    Jack Thompson signs the Cleo 10th anniversary centrefold picture

  • Waiting in the wings

    Waiting in the wings

  • Jennie and Barry Hadlow

    Jennie and Barry Hadlow

  • Strutt's detailed drawings for Bushrangers.

    Strutt's detailed drawings for Bushrangers.

  • Jack Thompson, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Ryan Stokes

    Jack Thompson, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Ryan Stokes

  • Alison Garnsey and Richard Stone

    Alison Garnsey and Richard Stone

  • Kashmira Mohamed Zagor and Jessie Stojanovska

    Kashmira Mohamed Zagor and Jessie Stojanovska

  • Ann Moyal and Chrissie Shaw

    Ann Moyal and Chrissie Shaw

  • Chris Mc Auliffe, Roger Butler and David Hansen

    Chris Mc Auliffe, Roger Butler and David Hansen

  • Ian and Shirley Gollings with Margaret Hodge

    Ian and Shirley Gollings with Margaret Hodge

  • Andrew Gosling and Alex Philp

    Andrew Gosling and Alex Philp

  • And the band played on...

    And the band played on...

  • Anne Turner, William Stirton and Angela Jacobsen

    Anne Turner, William Stirton and Angela Jacobsen

  • Maggie Rozanski

    Maggie Rozanski

  • Alanah Coughlan and Jacqui Brown and the Burke portrait

    Alanah Coughlan and Jacqui Brown and the Burke portrait

  • Cleo memories.....archived for posterity.

    Cleo memories.....archived for posterity.

Heroes and Villians: the Art of William Strutt @ NLA

11 August 2015

Getting older is a part of life and what a bugger that can be when facing up to that former youthful self and your exploits, especially if your life has been lived in the public eye, because today, like it or not, there will be a record of the celebrated aspects of your life that can be accessed in a nano second.

And so it was for Jack Thompson as the official guest invited to open the exhibition Heroes and Villians: The Art of William Strutt, because while his knowledge of and connection to explorer Robert O’Hara Burke is linked to playing him in the movie Burke and Wills, the portrait of Robert O’Hara Burke by the artist William Strutt is where Thompson began his research for the movie.We who are also getting older remember other significant moments in the life and times of Jack Thompson.

His is a life lived in the spotlight as a formidable actor with a back catalogue of memorable films, but it was a nearly nude Thompson moment from 1972, archived at the National Library of Australia and hastily found for the media launch so Jack could sign his famous Cleo centerfold photo, that pre-empted the launch formalities. But it wasn’t the original. It was the 10th anniversary picture to celebrate the original published Cleo centerfold. He happily signed though with a few reminiscences and we than got down to understanding Burke and more importantly William Strutt, the artist underestimated and probably overlooked in the pantheon of artists in Australia in the mid 1800’s.

Hopefully this exhibition will correct our ignorance as the NLA has collected their 200 works, borrowed a few more, created a display of Strutt’s meticulous drawings, sketches and watercolours used to create his magnificent Bushrangers, Black Thursday and the burial of Burke fifty years after researching that event. Strutt had French academic training, and enjoyed a steady but not artistically significant career. He has given us some of the finest colonial paintings of his time. Black Thursday February 6 1851, a magnificent canvas, was we are told owned by an editor of the Melbourne Argus. A mighty conflagration, most likely intimidating for the cook if his beef was a bit overcooked. Bushrangers on the other hand would be perfectly suited for a bank. One with a sense of humour.

Heroes and Villians: The Art of William Strutt continues at the NLA until 15 Novem