Looking at Art - March

<strong>Leonard Lloyd (Len) Annois</strong><br/>Born 1906, Melbourne; died Melbourne, 1966<br/><br/><i>Still Life with Aboriginal Artifacts ['Sketch for Driftwood'] </i>1949<br/>Watercolour on paper on board, 17.5 x 22cm<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU1954<br/>Acquired by purchase through the CDU Foundation for the CDU Art Collection, 2011 [Provenance: from the Collection of the late Senator John Button]<br/>Image © the artist's estate & courtesy Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne

Leonard Lloyd (Len) Annois

Leonard Lloyd (Len) Annois was educated at Melbourne High School, commencing an engineering career at aged 17. Unemployed during the Depression, he attended night classes in 1929 and 1930 at the National Gallery School, under the Directorship of Bernard Hall (1859-1935). W.B. McInnes (1889-1939) was his drawing-master.

Annois experimented with colour lino-cut techniques during this time, but appears to have produced only several examples, at least one printed on a press owned by fellow-painter and graphic artist James Flett. Flett introduced watercolour to Annois, encouraging his admiration for the work of Blamire Young (1862-1935). Annois initially painted historical scenes, but after studying the English Watercolour School, turned to the depiction of landscape. Annois' local 'painting grounds' became the Yarra Valley and Pentland Hills area, Bacchus Marsh, both in Victoria.

In 1935, Annois was employed by G.J. Coles & Co. Ltd and promoted to manager of the company's new advertising department in 1946. During the Second World War, he worked as a production illustrator with the Directorate of Armoured Fighting Vehicles and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd.

From 1935 onwards, Annois painted and exhibited both widely and regularly: at the Victorian Artists Society, the New Melbourne Art Club and the Athenaeum Gallery, as well as interstate. His first one-man show was held at Tye's Gallery in Bourke Street, Melbourne, in 1941. Recipient of many honours throughout Australia for his watercolour painting, Annois was acknowledged as a leading exponent of the medium with few rivals during his relatively short lifetime. He twice won the highly contested Crouch Prize for Watercolours in 1949 and 1950, and the Art Gallery of NSW's Wynne Prize (Trustees' Watercolour Prize) in 1961 and 1964. This latter prize was awarded for his work Sand Dunes, Simpson Desert 1964.

Annois was also active in arts administration and management, joining the Council of the Victorian Artists Society and engaging in the production of a new magazine, the Australian Artist. A foundation member of the committee that established the National Gallery Society of Victoria, he went on to become President in 1960. He was elected Associate (1952) and Member (1958) of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour.

Annois made the first of several journeys abroad in 1950, studying frescoes in Italy. On return to Australia, he applied his newly acquired skills and expertise in the fresco secco medium to the production of murals at the Pharmacy College of Victoria, Parkville (The Sissons Mural - Monash University), St John's Church of England, Camberwell, the Geelong Harbour Trust Building, Melbourne High School and the ANZ banks in Ballarat and Alice Springs. Measuring 70 feet by 20 feet, The Sissons Mural was completed in 1962 and is the largest mural painting in Australia.

Described as 'a bon vivant ... a gourmet, a cricket fan and a bird-lover', Annois brought 'a fresh perception' of landscape to Australian art, 'discarding the popular sunburnt plains and blue distances seen through gum trees'. In 1969, a posthumous retrospective of watercolours, inspired by his journey to Central Australia in 1964, drew critical acclaim from Brian Finemore. He described the artist's work as having 'a freedom and breadth of handling, an opulence of colour and a wealth of lyrical intimations' which had attained full expression and resolution in his later years. Patrick McCaughey compared Annois' best work with that of the young Fred Williams.

Still Life with Aboriginal Artifacts 1949 (also described by Annois as 'Sketch for Driftwood') was painted the same year that he won the Crouch Prize for Watercolour. The first title suggests the artist's awareness of, if not direct contact with, Australian Aboriginal people, art and objects - perhaps in the course of his travels across the continent. Unusual in composition, the work depicts a series of massed natural and man-made objects, with natural detritus (seaweed, sponge and dried vegetation), rising up and out of the picture plane in an almost surrealist manner, or as though suspended in water. Two of the wooden-like objects may be identified as Aboriginal carved boards, tjurunga or possibly a coolamon.

Len Annois is represented in major State and regional collections, private and corporate collections in Australia, university collections, as well Royal Collections abroad.

Still Life with Aboriginal Artifacts ['Sketch for Driftwood'] 1949 features in the CDU Art Collection's current exhibition, LOOK, showing in the CDU Art Gallery 1 - 30 March 2012.

[Sources: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/annois-leonard-lloyd-len-9370 (Ursula Hoff); http://www.pharm.monash.edu.au/faculty/sissonsmural.html (The Sissons Mural); http://www.printsandprintmaking.gov.au/catalogues/artist/14639/len-annois.aspx (NGA, Prints & Printmaking Database, "Annois, Len"). Accessed 1 March 2012.]

Anita Angel, Curator CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
6 March 2012

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