UP THE CROSS
LEN FOX (1905–2004)
EXHIBITION DATES 16 - 30 OCTOBER 2004
Curated by Jo Holder with Mona Brand
Kings Cross Arts
Opened by Jack Mundey
Read the Gallery sheet
The exhibition of his paintings, sketches and posters reveals his commitment to the Peace and Civil Rights movements, the Green Bans and workplace politics. It includes rare remnants of the ephemeral ‘poster exhibitions’ held in union halls and workplaces in from the 1940s to 1960s. Particularly timely is a splendid work celebrating the Centenary of the Eureka Stockade, 1854–1954.
Len Fox sketched over his lifetime. His adored uncle was the painter Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915) and painter Ethel Carrick Fox was his aunt. Len is the little boy in the sailor suit in E. Phillips Fox’s The Arbour (1911, National Gallery of Victoria) a graceful image of a middle-class Jewish family in a spring garden.
Len Fox took up oil painting in the mid-1940s after classes with the Studio of Realist Artists and his modest social realist works have a singularly utopian air. The strength and honesty of political images and messages from this not too distant era, contrast with our age of spinmeistery and ‘outfoxing’.
Fox was a prolific writer of socio-political penny pamphlets and, for ten years, wrote for and often illustrated Common Cause, the Miners’ Federation newspaper. He also wrote important histories Broad Left, Narrow Left (1982), an account of the ups and downs of the Australian Communist Party, and Australians on the Left (1996). Fox edited Depression Down Under (1989) and Dream at a Graveside: The History of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, 1928 - 1988 (1989). With Faith Bandler he co-authored the story of her father’s experiences, Marani in Australia (1980) and The Time was Ripe: A History of the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship, 1956–69, (1983).
Fox’s local histories Old Sydney Windmills (1978) and East Sydney Sketches (1991) bring to life the old inner Sydney working class areas also favoured by bohemians and émigrés. Mona Brand’s plays were often read at the New Theatre in St Peter’s Lane, Darlinghurst. In several paintings, Fox anguishes over the demolition of much of Woolloomooloo in the early 1970s.
Len Fox recalls in his biography E. Phillips Fox and his Family (1985), “He had a wonderful gift: he didn’t expect it to bring him material greatness - just the satisfaction of reproducing beauty in all he saw around him.” In similar terms, Faith Bandler said at Fox's funeral service in January this year, " He helped renew our faith in people."
During the Reconciliation Convention in 1997, the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, paid tribute to the distinguished group present who had fought for the "Yes" vote in the 1967 referendum, including Bandler, Uncle Joe McGinness, Jack and Jean Horner, Shirley Andrews, John Baker, Kim Beazley snr, Don Dunstan, Charles Perkins, Colin Tatz, Mona Brand and Len Fox.
2. VIETNAM, 1956–57 & BEYOND
4. COMMON CAUSE
5. REALIST ART
6. PAMPHLET COVERS & PUBLICATIONS