The bluestone studio was hand built by George and Tess Baldessin and the 3 teenage Hails brothers, Rob,Doug and Don. It is almost entirely made of recycled materials, most of which came from demolished 19th century buildings in Melbourne. It contains all George’s studio equipment including the large press, which he modelled himself with the help of Neil Jeffrey (Enjay Presses).
George Baldessin had a brilliant career as a sculptor and printmaker, and was already considered an important figure in the history of Australian Art in the 1970’s. He won many prizes and every State gallery aquired his work, including his famous Pears sculpture in front of the NGA Canberra. In 1975 he represented Australia in the Sao Paulo Biennale before living and working in Paris until his return to St Andrews in 1977.
He was killed on Aug 9th 1978, aged 39 years, leaving a legacy of work worthy of an artist twice his age.
In 2001 Tess returned to St Andrews to reclaim the very run-down studio and reconstitute it as The Baldessin Press.
It operates in George’s memory, so that artists may continue to create in this special place, thus perpetuating the generous spirit of George.
View of studio with Mary Magdalene Sculpture
George Baldessin was a legendary artist printmaker and sculptor who built his bluestone studio at St Andrews in 1971 where he moved after leaving his Winfield Building studio in Collins St. Melbourne.
His work is in most major private and public collections in Australia, and many overseas. Stories of his studio, his generosity and encouragement to others’ creativity still abound amongst his friends and acquaintances.
Baldessin was a charismatic figure in the history of Australian art, especially in Melbourne in the 1970’s, until his tragic accidental death in 1978, at the age of 39.
He is still revered by his former students (at RMIT) and fellow artists, and fondly remembered as the unofficial mentor to several generations of artists.
Perhaps his best known and most popular sculpture is the iconic pears (“The Final Pear Version”) at the entrance to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.
Baldessin represented Australia at the Sao Paulo Biennale (with Imants Tillers) in 1975 before going to live in Paris and work at the Lacouriere Atelier de Gravure, where he made many of his finest etchings. He returned to Australia in early 1977, and died 18 months later, leaving the Australian artworld aghast with shock. His memory still lives on through his wonderful etchings, drawings and sculptures, and in the hearts of all who had the good fortune to know the man..
The Baldessin Press is his etching studio, more or less as it was when George was still alive, complete with the custom built press that printed many Baldessin etchings, as well as work by other artist friends like Roger Kemp and John Olsen.
George Baldessin Pears Sculpture at the NGA Canberra
Born San Biaggio Di Callata, northern Italy, 1939. Died 1978
1949 Emigrated to Australia
1958-61 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Diploma of Fine Art (Painting)
1962 Chelsea Art School, London (Printmaking)
1963 Brera Academy, Milan
1964 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, part-time lecturer; Included in Mildura Sculpture Triennial, Mildura Art Gallery; Included in Recent Australian Sculpture, National Gallery of Victoria and travelling
1965 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, commenced lecturing full-time
1966 Included in Australian Prints Today, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC; Awarded Alcorso-Sekers Travelling Scholarship for Sculpture, AGNSW, and travelling to Japan
1967 Awarded Print Prize, 11th Annual Maitland Prize Exhibition, Maitland Art Gallery
1968 Established studio in the Winfield Building, Melbourne
1969 Included in the 1969 International Print Biennale, Bradford, UK; Included in the International Print Biennale, Cracow, Poland
1970 Awarded drawing prize, Second International Biennale for Drawing, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia; Awarded Geelong Print Prize; Awarded Shepparton Print Prize with Jan Senbergs; Began building bluestone studio, St Andrews, Victoria
1971 Married Tess Edwards; Awarded Comalco Invitation Award; Included in Australian Imprint, travelling exhibition to South East Asia
1973 Awarded Ballarat Gallery Prize; Awarded La Trobe Valley Ronald Award
1974 Established the Crossley Print Workshop with Tate Adams; George Baldessin Complete Etchings, Mornington Peninsular Arts Centre, Mornington
1975 George Baldessin and Imants Tillers represented Australia at the XIII Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil; Established the Druckma Press with John Robinson and Les Kossatz
1976 Worked at Atelier Lacouriere et Freault lithographic print shop, Paris; Completed MM of Rue St Denis drawings in Paris
1977 Returned to Australia
1978 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, lecturer in printmaking; Died in car accident
Over 40 solo and group exhibitions in Australia and abroad.
Selected exhibitions include:
1964 Recent Australian Sculpture, National Gallery of Victoria and traveling
1966 Australian Prints Today, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
1969 International Print Biennale, Bradford, UK & Cracow, Poland
1970 Second International Biennale for Drawing, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia
1975 Represented Australia with Imants Tillers, XIII Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil
1983 George Baldessin: Sculpture and Etchings, memorial exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria and travelling
1966 Alocorso-Sekers Travelling Scholarship Award for Sculpture
1967 Maitland Prize
1970 Second International Biennale of Drawing Yugoslavia, prize
1970 Geelong Print Prize
1971 Comalco Invitation Award for Sculpture
1973 Australia Council, Visual Arts & Crafts Board grant
National Gallery of Australia
Art Gallery of New South Wales
National Gallery of Victoria
Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Museums & Art Galleries of the Northern Territory
Queensland Art Gallery
Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery
Other regional galleries and university collections
Museum of Modern Art, New York