Ralph Balson Construction in green 1942

Ralph Balson

England, Australia 1890–1964
English-born Balson worked as a house-painter and did not begin painting pictures until his early 30s, after arriving in Australia in 1913. He took evening classes at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School, and from 1934 did figure drawing at the Crowley-Fizelle School, forming a life-long friendship and professional partnership with artist Grace Crowley. From 1955, he devoted himself to painting full time.

Balson was, by turns, an ardent devotee of geometric abstraction, abstract expressionism and tachisme.

Construction in green 1942

Balson was one of Australia’s leading abstract artists. He was part of the landmark Exhibition 1, held in 1939, one of the first serious group displays in Australia of art based on predominantly abstract principles. His 1941 exhibition is widely recognised as the first solo exhibition in Australia of non-figurative paintings. This work, painted the following year, continues his pursuit of pure painting.

Although he did not study overseas like many of his contemporaries, Balson was an avid reader and was familiar with international trends. He was inspired by the writings of artist Piet Mondrian and the idea of a universal, abstract art – exemplified in his geometric series, of which this work is a part. He referred to these compositions as ‘constructive paintings’.