The Saddest Loss
Artist Owen Abrahams captures the 1940 grand final in a stunning new print
Article by Matt Burgan www.melbournefc.com.au
OWEN Abrahams met Cameron Schwab in a chance meeting at a Fitzroy art gallery last year.
Schwab, who has a passion for art, asked about two of Abrahams’ pieces, which he entered into this particular exhibition: ‘The Old Fitzroy, 1935’ and ‘Victoria Park, 1966’.
Both were Abrahams’ artistic interpretations of football games created from two different eras.
It was the concept of these artworks that fuelled Schwab’s imagination, as Abrahams explains.
“In the course of our conversation, it became apparent Cameron and I both shared a passion for our respective football history and heritage, with the emphasis on the clubs, players, supporters, traditions and historical events that make each of our AFL club unique,” Abrahams told melbournefc.com.au.
“To capture all these is to reveal the life and blood of our great football clubs and it is what I hope to achieve in my work.”
At the conclusion of the exhibition, Schwab asked Abrahams to contact him to discuss the possibility of future projects.
“I soon met with Cameron and he shared with me his wish to create an artistic image of the famous 1940 Grand Final against Richmond at the MCG,” Abrahams said.
“Not being totally familiar with the history of the Melbourne Football Club, I was unaware of the importance of this final and the rich history that was contained in this significant game. From here, I was more than motivated to explore this further.”
Abrahams then researched the 1940 grand final with the assistance of Schwab and club historian Lynda Carroll. He then went to the state library, viewing copies of newspapers from the day. A study of the MCG, back in 1940 was undertaken by Abrahams, so he could capture the character of the ground and the surrounding grandstands.
Carroll said the print not only pays tribute to the 1940 grand final, but those who fell “silently and vividly” in war.
“The majority of Melbourne’s best and fairest awards are named after them,” Carroll said.
“If you look closely at the print, you can see, taking pride of place on the MCG, identities such as Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott, Sid Anderson, Ron Barassi Senior and Harold Ball.
“These names are still alive today, with the best and fairest named in Truscott’s honour and the second best and fairest after Sid Anderson. Recognition is also paid to Ron Barassi Snr and the best first year player award bears Harold Ball’s name.”
After almost two months of research, meticulous planning and creating the artwork, Abrahams’ 1940 grand final interpretation was complete.
“It is [set] halfway through the last quarter, as the dark clouds of war loom ominously over the MCG,” he said.
“With Melbourne having an unbeatable lead, the ball is kicked towards its goals at the Punt Road end. Club legends like Jack Mueller, Percy Beames, Norm Smith and Allan La Fontaine turn on their magic and embrace the battle unfolding with great persistence and tenacity.
“As the viewer, we are seated in the forward pocket, facing the Member’s Pavilion (1928-2004) and surrounded by The Concrete Stand (1927-1966), the Grey Smith Stand (1906-1966) and The Grandstand (1885-1954).
“In a strange sort of way, the grandstands make a shrine out of the grassed surface that leads to the white metal pickets that run the circumference of the oval. An image of a shrine is fitting here.”
Barassi, Anderson, Truscott and Ball are all involved in a passage of play on the print, which is poignant part.
“Ron Barassi Snr, Syd Anderson, Keith Truscott and Harold Ball here they will taste the sweetness of victory, yet the taste of death is not far from their lips,” Abrahams said.
“These four men stood tall and proud in the battle at the MCG on that day in September of 1940, but history also records that they all paid the ultimate price in the following years for our country and us.