Art Term

Angry Penguins

Angry Penguins was a modernist literary and artistic movement that sought to shake up the entrenched cultural establishment of Australia in the 1940s

Angry Penguins was originally the title of an Australian modernist literary journal founded in 1940 at University of Adelaide by four poets: D.B. Kerr, M.H. Harris, P.G. Pfeiffer and G. Dutton. At this time the University of Adelaide was a focus of modernist writing and debate under the influence of the poet playwright and teacher C.R. Jury, who acted as patron to the magazine.

The name became that of the modernist literary and artistic movement, centred around Harris, that sought to shake up the entrenched cultural establishment of Australia in the 1940s. They were seen as ‘angry’ young people; the rebels of their day. The Angry Penguins, said Harris, expressed ‘a noisy and aggressive revolutionary modernism’ and represented the new language and the new painting of Australia. They were forthright and unapologetic, demanding to be heard and seen. The artists included Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker.

In 1944 Angry Penguins was the victim of a famous literary hoax when two opponents concocted a set of modernist poems by a writer they invented called Ern Malley. Harris published them and a storm ensued when the hoax was revealed. Harris was tried and convicted for publishing obscenities and the cause of modernism in Australia was substantially set back.

  • Modernism

    Modernism refers to a global movement in society and culture that from the early decades of the twentieth century sought a new alignment with the experience and values of modern industrial life. Building on late nineteenth-century precedents, artists around the world used new imagery, materials and techniques to create artworks that they felt better reflected the realities and hopes of modern societies.

  • Avant-garde

    As applied to art, avant-garde means art that is innovatory, introducing or exploring new forms or subject matter

  • Painting

    Painting is the practice of applying paint or other media to a surface, usually with a brush

  • Landscape

    Landscape is one of the principal types or genres of subject in Western art

Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection