Charles Blackman – 'Schoolgirl with Bunch of Flowers'
The schoolgirl-themed series that Charles Blackman began painting in 1952–1953 is one of his most notable bodies of work.
Schoolgirls and other figures appear in desolate urban or industrial landscapes. The series contains surreal, eerie imagery that, in Blackman's signature style, powerfully contrasts the innocence of childhood with a sense of impending menace. The works were inspired by the unsolved murder of a school friend of Blackman's first wife, Barbara.
Alma Tirtschke was murdered in Melbourne on 31 December 1921. Her body was discovered in the early hours of the morning after her death, dumped in an alley behind a popular Melbourne wine saloon. With the media on their backs the police were pressured into discovering who had committed this heinous crime, known as the 'Gun Alley murder'. The reward advertised for naming and capturing the murderer was one of the biggest ever offered in Australia at that time.
The man eventually arrested was Colin Campbell Ross, the owner of the saloon. He was sentenced to death at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1922.
Blackman began working on the series in 1952, more than 30 years after the event, in response to the development on the murder site. In 2006 the case was re-opened as new evidence emerged. Ross was pardoned in 2008.
Blackman's schoolgirl drawings were the first consistent series of drawings he made, and were instrumental in establishing his reputation as a major Australian artist.