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Max Dupain’s Sunbaker

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 737
  • Category: Australia

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“˜Sunbaker’ is Max Dupain’s most famous artwork. It was taken in 1937. It is not just an artwork but it is an Australian icon because it represents what Australia is.

Description The photo is a famous image of the shapely male shoulders of a European man lying on Bondi Beach. Dupain used a low viewpoint to take the photo so that only the figure’s head, broad shoulders and well muscled arms are revealed.

Mood/Emotions Evoked The mood it creates is a very patriotic one which would fill most Australians with a sense of national pride. Most Australian’s spend a lot of their time at the beach so looking at the artwork reminds people of how much fun they have at the beach and how this makes them happy.

Messages/Ideas Just like most modernist art, this photograph too is multilayered with meaning and insight.

The obvious meaning being the fact that the young strong surfer stretched out in the sand sunbaking represents Australian’s affinity with the out doors and the importance of sport and physical activity in our culture. It symbolizes health, vitality and a celebration of the physical life we lead in Australia. The photo was taken in Bondi beach which is Australia’s most famous beach and it is an icon by itself.

The notion of Australian ‘nation-ness’ was depicted in a white male metaphor at the turn of the century – an urban myth of origin about ‘the little boy from Bondi’, a cartoon character representing the infant nation at the time of the federation of the colonial States in 1901. In the spirit of that myth, the little boy is all grown up in “˜Sunbaker’. So this artwork may be considered a metaphor for Australia as a country. The Australian nation today is a maturing sexual adult which has undergone his separation from Mother England. This photo was taken 37 years after the federation representing how we have moved since the time of the federation. He is relaxed at home on Bondi beach because this is his home and this is where he is going to stay. He is relaxed because he has nothing to worry about because everything in Australia is stable. He isn’t just a chartoon character but he is now real or in the actual sense it is no longer a dream for Australia to be a nation because it has realized this dream.

Success of the work The reason this artwork is successful artwork is its simple calm manner and the clarity and and the simple composition of it. It isn’t cluttered with detail and its just very down to the point. It is something that most Austalians can identify with and understand why Dupain has chosen Bondi beach and its surfer to represent who we r as a country. It has a very distinct style and it is this that makes the image stay burnt into your mind.

“˜Sunbaker’ is a well known Australian icon and it was used by QUANTAS in one of their advertising campaigns to represent Australia.

Relevance of the work today A book called “˜A Secret Country’ by John Pilger 1989 uses the image of “Sunbaker” and a photograph called “Aboriginal Behind Bars”, Peter Rae/John Fairfax group on its front cover. “Aboriginal Behind Bars”, is the direct opposite of the “˜Sunbaker’. It depicts a young scared black boy behind bars as opposed to a free and relaxed white boy on the beach. These two pictures equally share the cover of the book. The designer’s intention was to create a comparison about what life was life for white and black Australians of the time. He/she, in doing this is commenting on the falseness of the optimism shown in Dupain’s much admired photograph and infect serves as a reminder that things in Australia are really not as great as one of the most famous Australian icons shows.. The book itself is about “A moving account of the abuse of human rights in Australia, all the more valuable because it is written by an Australian writer.” – Graham Greenen.

This in some way reminds me of Parr’s “˜The National Picture’ and Duterrau’s “˜The Conciliation. The way “˜The Conciliation’ which is an Australian icon and our first history painting has been appropriated and this allows us to see the changing face of Australia towards the Aboriginal people in present day.

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