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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McClintock, Herbert (1906–1985)

by Philippa O'Brien

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

HJerbert McClintock, n.d.

HJerbert McClintock, n.d.

Australian War Memorial, P00936-001

Herbert McClintock (1906-1985), artist, was born on 20 November 1906 at Subiaco, Perth, eldest of six children of South Australian-born parents William McClintock, engraver, and his wife Ada Julia, née Cramond. The family settled at Heidelberg, Victoria, after a period in Adelaide. At the age of 13 Herbert was apprenticed to a process engraver. He later worked for a signwriter who encouraged his artistic talents. From 1922 he attended evening classes at the National Gallery of Victoria’s drawing school, where he was taught by Bernard Hall, George Bell and William McInnes. Fellow students included Eric Thake and James Flett.

In 1927 McClintock moved to Sydney to take up work as a commercial artist with the Sydney Morning Herald. He returned to Melbourne in 1929, resumed his studies at the National Gallery and established friendships with the socialist artists Roy Dalgarno, Noel Counihan and his future brother-in-law Nutter Buzacott. He also joined the Communist Party of Australia and began drawing political cartoons for left-wing newspapers. With Judah Waten he published the first and only edition of the radical (and soon confiscated) magazine Strife (1930). In July 1930 he exhibited in a group show, ‘The Embryos’, at the Little Gallery, Melbourne.

On 8 September 1933 at St Paul’s Terrace People’s Evangelistic Mission in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, McClintock married Eileen Patricia Partridge, a South African-born stenographer. The couple moved to Perth in 1934. McClintock found work as a commercial artist for the Daily News. Active in the Workers’ Art Guild, he gave drawing classes and associated with leftist intellectuals and artists, including Alec King, Katharine Susannah Prichard and Harald Vike.

McClintock also studied singing and, after accepting a position as a singer with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he began using the name Max Ebert (his nickname Mac and ’erbert). Influenced by European trends, Ebert experimented with surrealism, becoming a pioneer of the art movement in Australia. Approximate Portrait in a Drawing Room (1938-39), now in the National Gallery of Australia, is his earliest surrealist work. Considered one of Perth’s most radical painters–certainly its most iconoclastic–Ebert relished the notoriety of his position. His wife organised solo shows in 1938 and 1940, and he contributed to at least four group exhibitions in Perth. Most reviews praised his integrity, individuality and adventurousness.

McClintock moved to Sydney (via Melbourne) in 1940. During World War II, exempted from active service on medical grounds, he was employed by the Allied Works Council in Sydney, first in an iron foundry, later in a camouflage unit. In 1943 he was appointed an official war artist working alongside (Sir) William Dobell with the Civil Constructional Corps. The war years changed his attitude towards art. No longer as committed to personal exploration, McClintock, now using his own name, became a founding member of the Studio of Realist Artists in Sydney (1945), with whom he held frequent group exhibitions.

A solo exhibition at Melbourne’s Tye’s Gallery in 1954 was his last until Niagara Lane Galleries (Melbourne) held a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1980. Acknowledging that there were ‘long periods when I wasn’t engaged in creative arts’, McClintock advised future biographers not to try to write a ‘coherent’ life story.

In January 1951 McClintock and his wife had divorced, and on 23 February at the registrar-general’s office, Sydney, he married 20-year-old Marie Louise Berry, a singer. Survived by his wife and the two sons of his second marriage, McClintock died on 16 April 1985 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Herbert McClintock: Retrospective Exhibition (1980)
  • D. Bromfield, Aspects of Perth Modernism (1986)
  • J. Gooding, Western Australian Art and Artists (1987)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1 July 1930, p 5
  • West Australian, 17 Oct 1939, p 9
  • Australian, 16 Sept 1980, p 8
  • D. Hickey, taped interview with H. McClintock (1971, National Library of Australia)
  • A6119, items 1175 and 1176 (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Philippa O'Brien, 'McClintock, Herbert (1906–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 2 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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