'The bathroom' 1957
© Helen Brack
Although it is surely one of the least sensuous nudes in the history of Australian art, the formal complexities and intense colour harmonies of The bathroom make it one of the most visually seductive and compelling of John Brack's paintings. A small, angular nude stands squarely looking out at the viewer. She is little more than a dark silhouette in front of a glowing window—the focus of our attention.
Brack has carefully organised his composition based on the mathematical proportions of the golden mean, a harmonious mathematical proportion used by the Ancient Greeks. The three parallel planes that define the spatial depth of the picture—that of the frontal picture plane, the plane where the figure is located (defined by the edge of the shower screen and the top line of the tiles) and the window—all share the proportions of the golden mean. Brack's bright yellow window is literally a golden rectangle.
Brack addressed the traditions of western art in many of his works. In The bathroom he makes specific reference to the nudes at toilette of Pierre Bonnard. Brack wryly offers us an updated version of such scenes, inside a typical suburban Australian bathroom of the 1950s.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008