Captivated, captured: Fitzjames in Italy
Artist Michael Fitzjames opens his newest show Italia in Sydney on October 17 at the Australian Galleries, Roylston St, Paddington. He reflected on life and Italy for 10 Questions prior to the opening.
1: How did you begin your career as an artist?
Career may be the wrong word. Life is better. Always drew, never thought of “being” anything else. When I was about 11 years old, someone noticed me drawing ( this was in the back blocks of SA) and offered me a 10 shilling note for my drawing! I don’t know what that would be in todays money but back then it was a fortune.That sort of luck (fortune) has encouraged me ever since.
2: The distinctive black and white style… where did that come from?
I always noticed and loved book illustration. The first half of the 20th century was a golden period for black and white art and colour was not everywhere. The simplicity and suggestiveness of B&W art is a miracle. My step-father who had been in the Occupation forces in Japan had a lot of prints and books which mesmerised me.
3: Favourite artists Italian, and otherwise?
So many! Duccio, Bellini, Morandi, Roman painting, Fra Angelico, Piero della Francesca – among a great many more.
Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, Gustave Caillebotte, Seurat’s drawings, (prints and painting) um… Gwen John, J A M Whistler, Walter Sickert, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Max Beerbohm and so many more. The Japanese.
See answer above.
I draw a veil.
6: Why Italy ?
Endlessly fascinating, and not one place but a constellation of wonderful ‘countries’.
7: Favourite places in Italy?
Sicily and Naples.
8: Where are your favourite places to stay?
Don’t actually like travel; small pensioni or flats suit me, I like to sink into a place. Having said that, I cannot too highly recommend the Hotel San Anselmo on the Aventine when in Rome. And for Lecce, Palazzo Rollo.
9: Australian artists have for a long time had a deep connection to Italy. Cause?
Art education introduced us to Italian art and Italian immigration in the 50s introduced us to coffee, food, style and the way to live properly!
10: The iPad/iPhone sketches. Discuss.
A recent discovery. Great way to take notes without nosy parkers looking over your shoulders.
Find the Australian Galleries here.
Main image: Dominic Lorimer for The Australian Financial Review
Second image: Duccio’s Maestà (detail)
Third image: Piero della Francsesca’s The Queen of Sheba with King Solomon (detail)