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Object: Students entertain theatricals

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Title Students entertain theatricals
Production Clark, Russell (artist), 1934-38, Dunedin
Medium summary oil on composition board
Materials oil paint, poster board
Classification oil paintings
Dimensions Image: 456mm (Height) x 452mm (Width)
Overall: 476mm (Height) x 476mm (Width) x 37mm (Depth)
Support: 455mm (Height) x 455mm (Length)
Credit line Purchased 1981 with New Zealand Lottery Board funds
Registration number 1981-0023-1

This animated group was painted by Russell Clark during the Depression, at a time when the artist was working in Dunedin as a commercial illustrator for the printing firm John McIndoe Ltd. The painting perfectly captures the character and dress of young bohemians in Dunedin, which was a leading centre of culture in the 1930s.

The Dunedin art world
While Clark worked as a commercial artist, he had a good deal of contact with the local art scene. He held regular life-drawing classes in his studio at McIndoes. These lively gatherings brought together many young artists, including Colin McCahon and Doris Lusk. Students Entertain Theatricals emphasises Clark's commitment to his own production as an artist during this period.

'Commercial' and 'fine' art
A popular topic of debate in the 1930s was the position of the artist as worker. Views on the roles of the 'commercial' and 'fine' artist were polarised. Students Entertain Theatricals suggests that Clark didn't maintain an absolute distinction. Here, he uses techniques learnt through commercial illustration to capture his subject. Claiming that he started as a commercial artist during the Depression to make a living when he couldn't afford the 'indulgence' of the arts, Clark in fact continued to do commercial work throughout his life.

Related information

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