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Half the Perfect World: Australian Artists in the Post-war Aegean
Half the Perfect World: Australian Artists in the Post-war Aegean

Half the Perfect World: Australian Artists in the Post-war Aegean

Explore the artistic world of Hydra in the 1950s and 60s through the lens of celebrated Australian artists.

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16 Feb 2023, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Hellenic Museum, 280 William St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia


The Greek island of Hydra was a creative hub for international artists and writers in the 1950s and '60s; at its centre were the Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston. Over the years they were surrounded by an ever-changing cast of characters, many of whom were Australian. Artists Sidney Nolan and Robert Owen, novelist Rodney Hall, and political journalist Mungo MacCallum all spent time on Hydra as did one now very famous Canadian—poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen.

Presented by Professor Tanya Dalziell and Associate Professor Paul Genoni, this talk will consider why it was that mid-twentieth century Hydra attracted a youthful, creatively ambitious and socially experimental cohort of artists and writers, and what the Hydriots thought of their expatriate neighbours. The talk will also provide an insight into the challenges then facing the Aegean islands as they struggled to adapt battered post-war economies to newly modernised forms of travel, tourism, and leisure, and rapidly changing social structures and moral codes.

The presentation features unforgettable central characters; numerous tales of bohemian excess; and wonderful photos of Greek island living.


Professor Tanya Dalziell (University of Western Australia) and Associate Professor Paul Genoni (Curtin University) have many years’ experience teaching and researching Australian literature, film, music, photography, post-colonialism and modernity. They received the 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for their co-authored book Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964, which is currently being made into a feature film.

Image: Cynthia Nolan (in hat), Charmian Clift, Sidney Nolan & Clift's son Martin, Hydra c.1956.


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