IT ENCAPSULATES THE DRAMA OF PARLIAMENT AT THAT TIME
people who would have thought it was an outrageous decision. It was Eric Westbrook, who had just started as director of the National Gallery of Victoria, who made that decision.’’
Morrison says On Parliament Steps depicts William Barry, a Victorian Labor Party politician, who was a staunch anti-communist. In 1955, Barry was expelled from the Labor Party and became leader of the Anti-Communist Labor Party, later the Democratic Labor Party. During a session of parliament, Barry led his breakaway group across the floor in support of a no-confidence motion that brought down the Labor government of John Cain Sr. As a result of this perceived treachery, 30 pieces of silver were thrown at Barry’s feet. He also received dead rats in the mail.
‘‘ This work really encapsulates that feeling of the drama of parliament at that point in time,’’ says Morrison. ‘‘ Counihan is an artist who I have a great deal of respect for. For many of the painters who’d broken away from respectable society in the 1920s and 30s, things like Czechoslovakia in 1968 were deeply troubling, but Counihan, who died in 1986, kept his convictions right to the very end and those convictions were about looking after the person on the street.’’
Oil on composition board, 53.4cm x 91.4cm