Historic Exhibition

The Fitri Graham Foundation is thrilled to announce:

Fitri Graham’s Melancholia: A Retrospective

Opens 6 January, 6pm

6-28 January 2017
KINGS Artist-Run
Lvl 1 / 171 King St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

The Fitri Graham Foundation and KINGS Artist-Run proudly present the first retrospective of Australia’s least celebrated artist, Fitri Graham. This survey honours the life, oeuvre and cultural legacy of Graham – a legacy which has not only shaped the visual arts as we know it today, but, as this exhibition reveals, one which has coloured so many of our memories.

Fitri Jane Graham (1922-1980) was an abstract painter whose exhibition Melancholia (1949) was ill-received by just about everyone. Art critics described it as “dismal”, “lifeless” and “depressingly bad”; the public was overwhelmingly underwhelmed; and Graham’s own mother suddenly, and without discussion, moved cities two days after the exhibition’s opening. Haunted by her exhibition’s “failure”, Graham never touched a paintbrush again.

However, Melancholia hadn’t been as unappreciated as Graham had perceived – imitations began appearing in the backgrounds of school, family and graduation portrait photography and, by the 1970s, had become the dominant backdrop. Realising this, Graham took legal action in 1974 against fourteen photography companies including Rise ‘n’ Smiles and Cherished Memories Photo Studio. Devastatingly, Graham lost.

To do Graham and her story justice, this long awaited retrospective features many of the original Melancholia watercolour studies and oil paintings, notably Melancholia IV, recently rediscovered down the back of a rental property pantry. Also on view are archives and artefacts from private collections and the Fitri Graham Foundation (and Estate) including exhibition reviews from 1949 and Graham’s belongings and diaries.

Curated by Ida Lawrence

Contributions by Kate O’Boyle, Kathleen Linn, Monika Proba & Sebastian Henry-Jones