Peace (The Clown),
oil on board
inscribed 'PEACE' upper left and 'NOV 8. 18' upper right
30.5 x 22.5 cm
From the same family collection from which works by Manning were illustrated in the article on Tempe Manning, ‘The Lost Modernist’ by Leslie Harding in Art & Australia, Vol 36, no 4, 1999, p532 - 537).
The first news of the armistice reached Sydney early on Friday morning, 8 November, 1918, “when a cablegram came through, and the news spread like wild-fire. The fact that it lacked official confirmation counted for little in the minds of people thoroughly convinced that, even if the signatures of the parties had not yet actually appended too the document, that act could not possibly be long delayed. The pent-up feelings of four weary years at last found vent: and the result was one of the most memorable days in the history of Sydney. The sirens of the harbour, in a weird medley such as has rarely been heard from the waters of Port Jackson, proclaimed that something of vast importance had occurred: and the shrieking of railway whistles, the clanging of tram bells, the hooting of tram bells: The rattling of tins, and noises of every conceivable kind, combined to make a terrific din which everyone welcomed because it represented a paean of victory.”[i]
In fact the armistice was a false report as Mr Howard, the president of the United Press Associates, had based his report on an statement by Admiral Wilson in Brest, who later found his sources could not be confirmed.[ii] The armistice was signed at 10.55 am , 11 November 1918 when Mr Lloyd George announced the formal signing.[iii]
This work is probably a personal response by Manning to the false reporting of the end of the First World War. But since the figure of the clown might also be seen to represent an image of a rugged Australian soldier (the clown’s cap bearing an uncanny resemblance to a slouch hat) the painting might also be read as a classic statement denouncing war – given the appalling loss of life, any idea of peace arising from this loss would be a joke).
Manning was a student of Rubbo's from c1915 onwards. She is mentioned in a review of the 1916 Royal Art Society Exhibition along with Rubbo and Wakelin: 'Mr Rubbo has joined the pointillists and has dragged two students at least, Mr Wakelin and Miss Tempe Manning, after him. The three of them splash merrily with spots of crimson and green and vermilion and yellow and the results are certainly amazing.' (Quoted by Bernard Smith in Australian Painting OUP, 1962). Manning was a close friend of Grace Cossington Smith and both artists studied under Datillo Rubbo. Both transcended the teachings of Rubbo and in the 1915-18 period Leslie Harding has suggested that Manning’s preference was for painting more radical, intimate portraits, away from the structured environment of the Rubbo art school.[iv] [i] The Sydney Mail. 13 November 1918 at p 18-19 [ii] The Sydney Morning Herald 11 November 1918 , page 7. [iii] The Sydney Morning Herald 12 November 1918, page [iv] Art and Australia 1999, p536-37