Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tucker, Tudor St George (1862–1906)

by Ruth Zubans

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Tudor St George Tucker (1862-1906), artist, was born on 28 April 1862 at Finchley, Middlesex, England, second of five children of Charlton Nassau Tucker, retired Bengal Cavalry officer, and his wife Harriet, née Mason. The family had traditional ties with India: Henry St George Tucker, chairman of the East India Co., was his grandfather. Tudor chose the independent path of an artist, later describing it as 'a very painful & up-hill struggle'. He came to Melbourne in 1881 for his health. High-spirited, with a broad knowledge of art, music and philosophy, he was an early member of the Buonarotti Club. Between 1883 and 1887 he trained at the National Gallery schools under George Folingsby and was awarded prizes for drawing in 1884, 1886 and 1887. Tucker joined in landscape-sketching excursions and taught drawing to support himself. During 1882 and 1883 he exhibited with the Victorian Academy of Arts.

In May 1887 Tucker left for Europe. With E. Phillips Fox, he studied in Paris at the Académie Julian and under Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he won a gold medal. He also painted in plein air artists' colonies. At Etaples he produced his first major picture, 'A Picardy Shrimp Fisher', with which he made his début at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in 1891. Returning to Melbourne in July 1892, Tucker occupied a studio at Flinders Lane, later moving to the Cromwell Buildings in Bourke Street. A councillor of, and exhibitor with, the Victorian Artists' Society between 1892 and 1898, he held studio shows in 1892 and 1895. He contributed to major Sydney exhibitions and the Australian Exhibition at the Grafton Galleries, London, in 1898. Although his art was well regarded and purchased by two Victorian public galleries, patronage was limited. In 1893, together with Fox, Tucker established the Melbourne School of Art, based on French academic practices; from 1894 they conducted a lively, outdoor summer school at Charterisville.

Tall and slender, with a sauntering walk, Tucker had dark-blue eyes, refined features and soft, golden-brown hair. In failing health, he returned to London where he displayed his Australian works. By 1899 he had settled at Chelsea, but continued to exhibit widely—at the Royal Academy, at Birmingham and at Liverpool. He held his final 'Sea and Sunlight' show in 1906. On 21 December that year he died of phthisis at Hearne House, Hayes, Middlesex, and was buried with Anglican rites in the local churchyard.

Tucker's contribution has been underestimated. He was esteemed by fellow artists and Melbourne reviewers noted his advanced understanding of French art; his ability to theorize and communicate ideas enlarged local knowledge of Impressionist colour theories. His own work shows a refined colour sense and a delicate feeling for light effects; academic training is evident in his figure painting. Apart from portraits, landscapes and nudes, he painted figure compositions, sometimes quasi-narrative in character. Tucker is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the National Gallery of Victoria, Warrnambool Art Gallery, in major private collections and at Derby, England.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Clark and B. Whitelaw, Golden Summers (Syd, 1985)
  • Table Talk, 26 Aug 1892, 5 July 1895, 2 Oct 1896
  • Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser, 29 Dec 1906, 5 Jan 1907
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Aug 1929
  • Financial Review, 6 Apr 1978
  • R. Zubans, Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915): the Development of his Art, 1884-1913 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1980)
  • Buonarotti Club minutes (State Library of Victoria)
  • Victorian Artists' Society minute books (State Library of Victoria)
  • Tucker to E. Lance, letter, 5 Jan 1894 (Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ruth Zubans, 'Tucker, Tudor St George (1862–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-tudor-st-george-8870/text15575, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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