My Mabel waits for me, Michael Shannon
  • Artist
    Michael Shannon
  • Born
  • Died
  • Title
    My Mabel waits for me
  • Date of Production
  • Medium
    oil on canvas
  • Dimensions
    75.9 x 91.7 cm
  • Credit Details
    George Crouch Prize, 1953. © The Estate of Michael Shannon, courtesy Charles Nodrum Gallery

Michael Shannon

My Mabel waits for me

With its strong black outlines and rigid shapes filled with vibrant colour, this work was a controversial choice as the winner of the Crouch Prize in 1953. Shannon, who had abandoned the idea of becoming an architect in favour of art when he attended Saturday art classes, pursued his studies at the National Gallery of Victoria School and the George Bell School and later, in London and Paris.

Although well known for his cityscapes that often reflect a birdseye or roof top view, here Shannon has portrayed a single dwelling and empty vehicle outside of which a woman and young child wait. The painting caused a storm of derision from the general public who decried it for the perceived meanness of the subject matter, and for its lack of realism.  Even the selecting judge, Gordon Thomson, then Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, recognised that it was likely to raise much controversy. Thomson thought that the title had embarassing connotations, but he concluded in his selection commentary that the work deserved the prize on account of its 'strong approach to nature… full of life and color', and its unmistakeably Australian subject matter.