Australia farewells art critic and author Robert Hughes
TUE 07 AUGUST 2012
Prime Minister, Minister for the Arts
One of Australia and the world’s most respected art critics, Australian Robert Hughes, has died in New York at the age of 74.
With his death, Australia has not only lost a frank critic and writer, but also an esteemed historian who made significant contributions to tracing and telling Australia’s colonial history.
Few people who ever lived can have been so completely cosmopolitan, and completely Australian as Robert Hughes. His was, in every sense, a great Australian voice.
Through his writing and public role, he defined the artistic taste of a generation of educated Australians. He combined substance and style in a career of decades.
His writings were so significant and influential that the titles of his books entered our everyday language. His opinions were so influential – and controversial – that he established whole new orthodoxies which will long be debated and revised.
Mr Hughes was a highly respected author who wrote the important and comprehensive review of Australian painting from settlement to the 1960s, The Art of Australia.
He became the art critic for Time magazine in 1970 and furthered his already strong international reputation through the acclaimed television series and companion book The Shock of the New about the development of modern art. He later created an updated The New Shock of the New, which pictured an art world swamped by money and celebrity.
His book about England's colonisation of Australia The Fatal Shore was another major success.
Despite living overseas for more than 50 years Hughes remained an Australian citizen.
Among his many honours were a NSW Premier’s Literary Award for his memoir Things I Didn’t Know, and London’s Sunday Times 2000 Writer of the Year.
He received honorary degrees from the universities of Melbourne and New York, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, declared an Australian National Living Treasure and made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1991.
Our thoughts today are with his wife Doris Downes Hughes and his family.