Self portrait with stunned mullet 1994

William Robinson
Self portrait with stunned mullet 1994
Oil on canvas
197 x 164cm
Private Collection

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Like a stunned mullet: Colloquial a. in complete bewilderment or astonishment b. in a state of inertia
(Macquarie Dictionary)

Portraits usually record the customary appearance of the sitter, and reveal an aspect of character. Robinson's quizzical self portrait seems to deflect these aims, and to impart its ideas through visual puns, the rhyme of similar shapes, and quotations from other paintings. In this work Robinson based his facial expression on William Hogarth's The shrimp girl 1740-45 (NGA London), a painting noted for its vivid reflection of contemporary English street-life. Robinson reverses the effect of The shrimp girl's smiling expression, using it to vacate his face of spontaneous life. The painting was awarded the Archibald Prize in 1995, and prompted conflicting opinions. It was rebuked by Elwyn Lynn as 'dead', and welcomed as 'outstanding' by Jeffrey Smart.

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