Max Middleton enjoyed a long and highly acclaimed career as a professional artist, exhibiting in 68 exhibitions over 66 years. He died in 2013.Max had a great interest in the Australian landscape. As an en plein air painter, he faithfully rendered what he saw. He had an extraordinary ability to capture light on canvas.
Born in Melbourne in 1922, Max knew he wanted to be an artist from the age of 12. At 16 he started lessons in drawing at the National Gallery School, and practiced his oil painting technique on Sunday’s when his father drove him to the country to paint en plein air. Max studied privately with Septimus Power from 1940. Power greatly influenced Max’s early paintings with use of broad brush strokes and patterns of light and shade. Power became both a mentor and a friend to Max, and expressed his confidence in Max’s technical competence by inviting Max to assist with teaching.
In 1950 Max travelled to Europe to see the major museums and train at Heatherleys School in London, and in Florence at the Scala di Bellearti (School of Fine Art). In Europe his key influences were JMW Turner and Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, both en plein air painters of the transformative effects of light. He painted in Wales, Ireland, Paris and Spain and in the flourishing art community of Cornwall. It was in regional Spain that he chose to paint the people of the area, and since then, the human figure has been a recurring subject in his paintings. Max returned to Australia in 1953, excited to once again be painting landscape in the unique Australian light. He felt liberated by his altered perspectives and adapted his technique and to a style influenced by the European masters.
Max’s success belied his quiet commitment to his work, and his gentle reverence for life.
1938 Studied Drawing at the National Gallery School under William Rowell
1940 Studied under Harold Septimus Power
1946 First Solo Exhibition
1950-53 Painted in Europe; Studied at Heatherley’s School in London and Scuola del Bella Art in Florence. Painted in Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, Paris & Spain. Returned to Australia and resumed teaching and painting
1959 Lived and painted in Bali; Married his partner for life, Elsa Jacob
1965 Moved to Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges and extensively painted surrounding forests
1966 Focussed on painting teams of working Clydesdales
1968 Painted in the Trobriand Islands
1974 Painted working teams of bullocks
1975 Painted and travelled in Europe
1978 – 87 Painted cattle musters in Northern NSW
1986 – 87 Painted cattle in the Victorian high country
1988 Began painting nudes – his inspiration throughout the final years of his career. Ill health forced Max to retire from painting in 2010.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2012 Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum Max Middleton, Painter of Light
2006 Albert Park Gallery, Melbourne, Max Middleton, Painter of Light
2004 Albert Park Gallery, Max Middleton – Past & Present
2003 Five Ways Galleries, Melbourne
1997 Leonard Joel Gallery, Melbourne
1996 Rafferty’s Galleries, Perth
1993 Caulfield Arts Complex
1984 Barry Stern Galleries, Sydney
1981-92 Five Ways Galleries, Melbourne
1979-80 Kalorama Galleries, Melbourne
1978 Kalorama Galleries, Melbourne & David Jones Gallery, Adelaide
1976 Newtown Gallery, Adelaide
1972-74 Rigby Gallery, Adelaide
1968-70 Moyle’s Gallery, Adelaide
1966 Moyle’s Gallery, Adelaide & Adam Galleries, Melbourne, & Parry Galleries, Melbourne
1963-64 Studio Exhibition, Melbourne
1963 Malvern Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne & Hamilton City Art Gallery, Hamilton & Joliffe Gallery, Hobart
1961-62 Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne
1956-60 Tasmanian Tourist Bureau Gallery, Melbourne
1954-59 Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne
Queensland Art Gallery, Bendigo Regional Art Gallery, Benalla Regional Art Gallery, Castlemaine Regional Art Gallery.