Who is Jon Molvig?

By Gwylym Owen

Helge Jon Molvig (27 May 1923 – 15 May 1970) was an Australian expressionist artist, considered a major developer of 20th-century Australian expressionism, even even though his career ‘only’ lasted 20 years. He was born in the Newcastle, New South Wales suburb of Merewether.

Molvig won the Archibald Prize in 1966 similar to a portrait of painter Charles Blackman and portraits of Molvig by player John Rigby were hung in the Archibald in 1953 and 1959. He won many additional prizes including the 1955 and 1956 Lismore Prize, 1961 Transfield Prize (City Industrial), 1963 Perth Prize (The Family), 1965 David Jones Prize (Underarm Still Life), 1966 Corio Prize (The Publican) and 1969 Gold Coast Prize (Tree of Man X). During the late fifties/early sixties Molvig held weekly, very informal, life drawing classes which were central to the Brisbane art scene at the time, and he was mentor to various emerging artists such as John Aland, Andrew Sibley, Gordon Shepherdson, Mervyn Moriarty, Joy Roggenkamp and many others. Otte van Gilst became a student in 1958, moved in gone Molvig in January 1960 and they married in August 1963.

Molvig was an skillful and honest portrait painter – painting fellow artists Charles Blackman, John Rigby, Joy Roggenkamp, Russell Drysdale and Barry Humphries as without difficulty as many privately commissioned portraits, i.e., Paul Beadle, Sir Charles Moses, Sir Percy Spender, Clem Jones and Dr. Scougall. His powerful self-portrait is ration of the Queensland Art Gallery collection.

Molvig’s art was much-admired at Queensland Art Gallery from September 2019 to February 2020 in the form of a major retrospective exhibition named Maverick. The exhibition start featured a upsetting speech by his wife Otte van Gilst who was in the middle of her sons Nick and Alex Bartzis as well as lengthy family.

Molvig’s facility came further on in 1958/59 subsequent to he painted the ‘Centralian’ series after travelling through central Australia – incorporating Australian Aboriginal symbolism in his own clarification of the Australian landscape. Molvig was an emotional and intuitive painter, deeply concerned bearing in mind humanity and its follies and always invented symbols and a particular ‘style’ to stroke the criteria of the subject he was painting. This is utterly evident in his ‘Eden Industrial’ series 1962 – impressive images of Adam and Eve in an industrialised Garden of Eden, with heavily textured surfaces achieved by blazing layers of paint in imitation of a blowtorch.

Later the ‘Pale Nudes’ series (1964) once again play in the involve Australian Aboriginal art had upon him, and this symbolism was new distilled in the ‘Tree of Man’ series (1968), painted behind he was seriously ill and perhaps already had a suitability of his own mortality.

Molvig was a rare human being – gregarious and straight forward, often too brutally honest for his own good and unable to abide stupidity, but subsequent to a gift of genuine compassion and arrangement and gentleness to whatever living things, including the human race with everything its imperfections and this is evident in his work.[citation needed]

Molvig died in Princess Alexandra Hospital, South Brisbane, Queensland after an bungled kidney transplant.

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