Charles Blackman in 1978 had also made an oil painting on board titled Pink Nightmare; the size was 155x124cm. Charles had also included a Lithographic version as part of his 70th Birthday series where there where 5 Lithographs in total, in real life the oil painting is stunning as is this lithograph.
The key painting in the quintet, The Nightmare (after Fuseli) (1978, Art Gallery of New South Wales) is a quite close transcription of Fuseli’s original composition, but with the breast-crushing incubus-gnome transformed into a chest of drawers. The present work, a later, vertical version, is still further stripped down, ‘a monumental The key painting in the quintet, The Nightmare (after Fuseli) (1978, Art Gallery of New South Wales) is a quite close transcription of Fuseli’s original composition, but with the breast-crushing incubus-gnome transformed into a chest of drawers. and voluptuous image with a cohesive sculptural power. The gnome has disappeared entirely, and the ghastly-ghostly erotic encounter is reduced to that between hollow-eyed, looming horse head and shut-eyed, floating woman. Blackman describes the moment both in paint and in a poem –
The unseeing horse may reference not only the bulging, milky eyeballs of Fuseli’s painting, but also the blinded horses of Peter Shaffer’s dark and disturbing play ‘Equus’, released as a film by Sidney Lumet in 1977. Yet here ‘the violence has been commuted into the rich indulgence of flushed pinks, radiant red and intense blue.
Nightmare paintings were included (along with series on Marcel Proust and Edgar Allen Poe) in Blackman’s 50th birthday exhibition in 1978, a show Sandra McGrath declared contained ‘the strongest, most provocative and psychologically arresting performance of his career.,
1. Felicity St John Moore, Schoolgirls and Angels: a retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1993, ,
2. See Nadine Amadio, Charles Blackman: The Lost Domains, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Sydney and Wellington, 1980, ,
4. Poem by Charles Blackman cited in Moore, op. cit.
6. Sandra McGrath, cited ibid,
Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls & Angels, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 18 May – 22 August 1993; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 September – 14 November 1993; Brisbane City Hall Art Gallery, Brisbane, 7 December 1993 – 27 January 1994; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 16 February – 4 April 1994, cat. 107
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Felicity St John Moore, Schoolgirls and Angels: a retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings by Charles Blackman, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1993,
Nadine Amadio, Charles Blackman: The Lost Domains, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Sydney and Wellington, 1980,
Through 1977 and 1978 Charles Blackman developed several versions of Henry Fuseli’s Romantic masterpiece of 1781, The Nightmare. The series began with twin erotic epiphanies: a girl swimming with a horse and a sultry movie star. The girl was endurance rider Sue May, the horse her white stallion Buckshot, and the vision an accidental encounter at Blackman’s St Alban’s bush studio. The actress was Kate Fitzpatrick, who first met Blackman at this time. Fitzpatrick was then starring in the somewhat dubious Australian horror film Night Nurse, and whether by association with the gothic flavour of the film or simply by virtue of her flowing hair and languid grace, Blackman saw in her the image of Fuseli’s distressed dreamer.
Blackman had been strongly drawn towards Fuseli’s strange, dark picture since at least 1970; Felicity Moore notes a reference to it in a letter to Laurence Hope from that year. The actual sequence had its tentative beginnings in a small coloured ink drawing dated January 1977. Later in the year, enriched by a couple of successful literary projects – a suite of ‘Mother Goose’ nursery rhymes in dry point, and drawings and watercolours of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fairy tale – and shadowed by the formal end of his 27-year marriage, Blackman was in the right frame of mind to tackle The Nightmare head-on. He would eventually produce five major works on the theme.
Copyright © Charles Blackman