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John Vickery

c. 1929
an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 29.7 cm x 20.9 cm)
Image not available

John Vickery (1906-1983), illustrator, designer and painter was the only Australian to be part of the New York School in 1960s which includes painters such as Jackson Pollock, Joan Mitchell and Willem de Kooning. Vickery was an important painter in Australia's engagement with the Op Art movement.

A student at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, the artist had good success as a portrait artist early in his career. A finalist in the Archibald Prize three times: in 1932 with a portrait of Miss Leila Pirani, and twice in 1933 with his self portrait, and a portrait of Miss Joan Burbury. After a brief stay in London, he moved to the United States of America in the 1930s, where he pursued his arts practice while working in advertising in New York, as an illustrator. From 1943 through to the end of the Second World War, he sketched the portraits of more than 650 patients in military hospitals in the US and the South West Pacific, as part of the USO. Vickery's contribution continued after the end of the war, as Chairman of group counselling for The Society of Illustrators Veterans' Program, supporting upskilling, education, and reengagement.

By the 1950s, Vickery had become friends with Philip Guston and come into contact with other members of the expressionist New York School, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Yves Kline. Despite his proven capacity as a fine portrait artist, Vickery primarily worked in Op Art, and named the New York School as a significant influence. He exhibited regularly in the US over the course of his career, and three decades after his death, his contribution was recognised at his alma mater: an exhibition of his work was the inaugural show at the Victorian College of the Arts' Founders Gallery in 2013. Vickery's work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The University of Melbourne offers the John Vickery Scholarship for Art students enrolled in Painting or Drawing, based on financial need and academic achievement.

Gift of Karen Vickery 2022

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

John Vickery (age 23 in 1929)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency