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Light + Shade: Max Meldrum and his followers

Max Meldrum was one of Australia’s most influential painters and art teachers of the 20th century but has also been one of the most neglected in recent years.

As a teacher and painter, Meldrum was adored and reviled in equal measure. At his art school, which he established in Melbourne in 1916, he encouraged minimal use of paint and a restricted colour palette. He argued that when an artist is painting, the key factor to consider is the tonal variation of the subject (the darkness and light), ahead of drawing skill and choice of colour.

The works of the Tonalists as Meldrum’s followers are known, are easily identifiable by their ‘misty’ appearance and limited subject matter and are a key, yet relatively overlooked, part of the story of Australian art. While the work of student Clarice Beckett has become well known in recent years, works by Meldrum’s other students and followers are still largely unknown.

This exhibition, showcasing works from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, brings together paintings by Max Meldrum, Clarice Beckett, Colin Colahan, Alma Figuerola, Jock Frater, Harry Harrison, Percy Leason and other ‘Meldrumites’. It features some recent acquisitions including a still life by Clarice Beckett.


06 Nov 2021 - 06 Feb 2022

40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat Central, VIC 3350Get directions


The City of Ballarat acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung People, and recognises their continuing connection to the land and waterways. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend this to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.