George Baldessin (1939-1978) was born in San Biagio di Callalta, in the Veneto in Northern Italy and arrived in Australia ten years later. A printmaker and sculptor he built his bluestone studio at St Andrews (Nillumbik) in 1971 with his partner Tess and the three Hails brothers, Rob, Doug and Don. Made of recycled materials the studio today contains all of George’s equipment including the large press, which he modelled himself with the help of Neil Jeffrey (Enjay Presses).
George won many prizes throughout his career and is represented in many of Australia's public art collections including his famous 'Pears' sculpture in front of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. In 1975 he represented Australia in the Sao Paulo Biennale, before living and working in Paris until his return to St Andrews in 1977. In 1978 George was killed in a car accident aged 39 years. In 2001 Tess returned to St Andrews to reclaim the run-down studio and reconstitute it as The Baldessin Press & Studio - a printmaking retreat. It operates in George’s memory, so that artists may continue to create, perpetuating the generous spirit of George.
This work chosen for the folio is from an incomplete edition from 1966. It has been printed on Baldessin's original 1974 cast aluminium Enjay press (designed and made in collaboration with Neil Jeffreys) and restored specifically for this project by Dan Jones. In addition Deanna Hitti has used Baldessin's original Japanese Torinoko paper, stored safely in his studio for over forty years.
‘Portrait II’ is one of eight prints in the 'Baldessin & Friends commemorative folio. The folio was conceived by Tess Edwards as a fundraising initiative in celebration of the The Baldessin Press & Studio's fifteen year anniversary, and as a way to honour George Baldessin's memory. The Baldessin Press & Studio is a not-for-profit organisation created in memory of the late George Baldessin (1939-1978), whose original studio is now open to the public for creative use and as a practical legacy to living artists. The Studio is located in St Andrews, Nillumbik. The folio is a unique coming together of seven very different and acclaimed artists who are connected by their friendship to the missing eighth member, George Baldessin.
This print is a fine example of Baldessin's primary interest of the figure, which displays great sensitivity to and observation of the human condition. Distortion, exaggeration and fragmentation were employed by Baldessin as tools to animate and scrutinize the displaced, dispossessed and alienated figure, flattened against the picture plane.
Black and white distorted and exaggerated figure (head and shoulders), with hands raised to the face and the figure's right eye.