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 1970s. He won many prizes and every State gallery acquired 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 9 Aug 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 artist's generous spirit.
The bluestone studio was hand built by George and Tess Baldessin and three teenage brothers, Rob, Doug and Don Hails. 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).
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.
The studio has been opened to the art public for creative use, in memory of his work, and as a practical legacy to living artists.