Geoffrey Lehmann and I were invited by August, his eldest son, to join the family celebrating Charles Blackman’s ninetieth birthday to be celebrated by family in the master’s rest home at Rose Bay.
Through the seventies and eighties Charles and I had painted together and as we drove down the hill memories flooded back of joyous conversations and insights of his infinitely playful mind
It was the day of the City to Surf, August 12, so we had to descend from the heights of Bellevue Hills to avoid the runners.
Food was laid out in the dining room and Charles’s available family of several generations were joyously milling around a small figure in a wheelchair. Charles did not move from his wheelchair for the duration of the afternoon. His manner was one of moments of intense interest and then carefree detachment.
Following others, in turn, I sat close to my old friend and said. “Eugene Delacroix here, Charles.”
A year earlier I had had a lengthy spirited conversation with him and we had shared our views about that painter, whom we both admired. He turned abruptly towards me and there was a momentary keen look and he softly murmured the name Delacroix. Then I identified myself properly and he smiled nodded and murmured acknowledgement.
I continued, “Delacroix said, ‘Oh artist, keep working until the effect is right and then stop’.”
He snorted. There was a warm glint in his eye and hint of a defiant smile. He had no intention of stopping, I felt, and had in fact not.
August’s wife Andrea showed me very recent drawings the master had been working on.
A black pen drawing of a solitary strongly hatched female figure – first walking towards the viewer and latterly walking away.
August rang me on the morning of August 20 to tell me that his darling dad had slipped away peacefully surrounded by family.
He was the painter of the heart to the end.
Main illustration: Charles Blackman/Sotheby’s Australia.
Illustrations: Paul Delprat.
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