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1924 – 1990
Born in Melbourne, Clifton Pugh studied at the Melbourne National Gallery under William Dargie from 1947 to 1950. He spent the next four years in the bush, in a house he built himself some fifty kilometres from Melbourne. There he lived and painted close to the earth, identifying with the drama of survival of bird, animal and human being in the unyielding bush environment.
As Pugh established himself as a painter he was much in demand as a portraitist. He developed an independent style of portraiture based on informality and empathy with his subject. His skill as a portrait painter is underlined by the fact that he won the Archibald Prize in 1965, in 1971 and again in 1972 with his portrait of Gough Whitlam.
James Gleeson in his book “Australian Painters” notes that “Clifton Pugh’s vision of nature, red of tooth and claw, has made him the outstanding Australian exponent of the post- Darwinian approach to landscape and animal paintings.
Predators, stark as death, attack their prey, which dies on earth as red as blood. The bush is a battlefield where only the fittest survive. Strength, speed, cunning, sharp teeth, claws or talons – these are the weapons of survival – and Pugh sees this terrible, inevitable pageant of life and death with clear, unsentimental eyes.”
Clifton Pugh exhibited at the Tate and Whitechapel Galleries in London and is represented in all major Australian galleries, and in numerous corporate and private collections. Many of his portraits of famous Australian politicians hang in Parliament House, Canberra.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and all state gallery collections
Numerous Australian university collections, regional galleries, public collections
Private collections both here and abroad
Reference: Involvement the Portraits of Clifton Pugh & Mark Strizic Andrew Grimwade (1968); Clifton Pugh, Patterns of a Lifetime Traudi Allen (1981)