LAST week 100 Ballarat clients of financial group Crowe Horwath and Findex were invited to a special viewing of Melbourne artist George Petrou’s ‘Lost diggers of Vignacourt’.
The viewing was part of the Centenary of Anzac. Petrou’s fourteen detailed portraits were much admired and Ballarat is the second location that the art work has been on show, following the recent opening in Melbourne.
While there are no Ballarat soldiers in the exhibition the moving portraits were none the less very well received. As well as the artist, other speakers were Gary Snowden, a well respected local World War I researcher and author, and Lambis Englezos AM, well known for his work at the Battle of Fromelles. George Petrou’s paintings are based on photographs of Australian soldiers taken during WWI in Vignacourt by local photographer of the day Louis Thuillier. The photographs were discovered in a French farm house by Australian investigative journalist Ross Coulthart.
He found the original glass plates which were later brought to Australia after being purchased by Kerry Stokes and are now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. George Petrou is a well known Melbourne graphic designer who has turned his artistic talents increasingly to painting in recent years. His painting has evolved from a strong contemporary abstract style to restrained portrait painting with a splash of abstraction to free up the subject from total reality.
George has developed a special interest in Word War 1 history and has directed his passion to bringing photographs from the time to life on canvas.
In 2012 he visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra where he was overwhelmed by the ‘Remember Me – The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt’ photographic collection. This exhibition struck such a chord with George that he has used these images as a base to interpret the soldier’s facial expressions and gestures to tell their story on canvas. The result is magnificent larger than life portraits of Australian Diggers.