Strip Club, 1961
PVA on board
81 x 52.5 cm
signed with initials and dated ‘RL61’ (lower left)
Watters Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney
Richard Larter – Paintings from the Pat Larter Collection, Watters Gallery, Sydney, 15 November – 9 December 2000, cat.14
Image courtesy of the artist's estate and Watters Gallery, Sydney
Richard Larter will perhaps be best remembered as one of Australia’s leading Pop Artists, though his work is difficult to confine to one fixed movement or style. Born in Essex in 1929, Larter served a dispiriting stint in the British Army from 1947, during which time he determined to become an artist. He was spellbound by modern art in Paris where he found colour in Monet and Matisse and the nude in Toulouse-Lautrec, Schiele and Manet’s Olympia. He was further inspired in Algiers in 1951 by the decorative motifs and mosaics of Islamic art that he admired further in the works of Gustav Klimt.
Sex is the core subject across Larter’s art, especially representations of the female body. He often painted his wife, the performance artist Pat Larter (1936-1996), who would playfully pose to mimic soft porn and strip teases. Always naked rather than nude, Larter’s women nonetheless avoid being pornographic, rendered as they are with intimacy and with humour. As the curator Deborah Clark wrote in the National Gallery of Australia’s major 2008 retrospective of Larter’s work: ‘His female subjects are positive and empowered and they are also vulnerable. In the visceral way he models their forms – with fine cross-hatching and repeated lines – the artist evokes the fragility of the human body, and human life itself.’
Larter exhibited for over six decades and produced a diverse oeuvre of figurative and abstract paintings, collages and mixed media works. His Stripperama series from the 1960s was reshown at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in 2002, and a major retrospective, Richard Larter: Retrospective, was staged at the National Gallery of Australia in 2008. In 2011 he received an Order of Australia Medal for his services to the arts. He died in 2014.