Blog Archives

Robert Hughes, art critic & historian, dies at age 74.

I remember him most for The Shock of the New, his evaluation of 20th century art, and The Fatal Shore, his history of the settling of his native Australia.

Hughes attended Sydney University, an architecture major, where he was academically undistinguished. In his words:

“I actually succeeded in failing first year arts, which any moderately intelligent amoeba could have passed.”

A the age of 28 he wrote The Art of Australia, which he later dismissed as “juvenalia.”  After its publication the popular historian Alan Moorehead advised him to go to Europe.

Hughes traveled around the great art capitals of the world, landed in London and wrote art criticism for the Sunday Times. He wrote a book called Heaven and Hell in Western Art (1969) that bombed. However, a Time magazine executive read it, and promptly hired Hughes as art critic. In 1970 he moved to Manhattan and wrote for Time for the rest of the century.

Happy Valentines Day to you and yours…

Time to get out there with your Sweetie and have a great day and a delightful evening. A great day to stop thinking about politics and corruption and such (although I’m sure I won’t) and just enjoy yourselves.

Bill Hunter, great Australian character actor, has died…

If you have seen Gallipoli, Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, Strictly Ballroom or any of the many major Australian movies that have taken to our American screens, then you have seen Bill Hunter, whose over 50 year career made him the actor that represented Australia to many.

Hunter began as a stunt man in 1959 in the American film On The Beach that was filmed in Australia. Rumor has it that, “when he watched Gregory Peck do 27 takes and thought, ‘A mug could do that’”,  according to Rhoda Roberts, Mr. Hunter’s former wife, in The Daily Telegraph of Sydney, he decided to become an actor.

When cinema-goers asked, “Haven’t I seen that bloke in something before?”, the answer with the Australian actor Bill Hunter was almost invariably, “Yes”.

– Nick Bryant, Sydney Correspondent for the BBC.

Director Baz Luhrmann described Mr. Hunter in a statement last week as “the go-to iconic actor to synthesize quintessential Australian-ness.” Children knew him as as the voice of the dentist who captured the clown fish star of the hit 2003 animated feature Finding Nemo.

Hunter was 71 and died of cancer.

Joan Sutherland, Dead at 83

The great soprano Joan Sutherland has died. Born in Australia, Ms. Sutherland made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1961 and continued entertaining audiences there for four decades.

Anthony Tommasini in the NY Times pointed out:

Ms. Sutherland’s singing was founded on astonishing technique. Her voice was evenly produced throughout an enormous range, from a low G to effortless flights above high C. She could spin lyrical phrases with elegant legato, subtle colorings and expressive nuances. Her sound was warm, vibrant and resonant, without any forcing. Indeed, her voice was so naturally large that at the start of her career Ms. Sutherland seemed destined to become a Wagnerian dramatic soprano.

Following her first professional performances, in 1948, during a decade of steady growth and intensive training, Ms. Sutherland developed incomparable facility for fast runs, elaborate roulades and impeccable trills. She did not compromise the passagework, as many do, by glossing over scurrying runs, but sang almost every note fully.

Her death at her home in Switzerland was confirmed by her close friend the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.