[Editor: An extract from the column “Stories from Here and There: From a Reporter’s Note Book”, published in The Examiner, 13 November 1943.]
The Australian artist
There are indications which incline one to the hope that at last the Australian artist is coming into his own. By that I mean our writers, painters, musicians, and others are now receiving an increasing measure of the appreciation and encouragement which has been denied them for so long.
Their road has been a hard one, mainly because of the strange trait of the Australian in turning away from anything that savours of Australia. Anything European or American, irrespective of merit, “must be good,” and so the Australian writer suffered. Unable to win honour in their own country many went abroad and were sooner or later acclaimed.
The average Australians’ apparent disdain for anything “Australian” has, I think, been caused to some extent by some of our early writers. They clung slavishly to that type of novel which dealt exclusively with the misfortunes of impoverished English families, or their dishonoured scions and their trials and tribulations in “this barbarous land.” The setting was Australian, but the books were full of wishful hankerings after the old country, with a monotonous number of earls, duchesses, and sundry baronets thrown in for good measure.
Happily that vogue has almost passed. Novelists to-day are dealing more with Australians, their country, and their problems.
The difficulty in importing books and the stimulated interest in this country caused by the influx of Allied servicemen has made the Australian reader turn to the literature of his own country. His interest has been aroused, and, I think, he is now becoming avid for more.
This happy augury will do much more for the future of our art than author Leslie Haylen’s admirable suggestion in Parliament that a school of art and culture be established.
Without the interest of the people such a school would become little more than a forum for our artists and much berated intellectuals.
With public interest and demand it could, I think, do wonders.
The Examiner (Launceston, Tas.), Saturday 13 November 1943, page 6