YOUNG, William Blamire (1862-1935)

YOUNG, William Blamire (1862-1935)
always known as Blamire Young
was born at Londesborough, Yorkshire, in 1862, the second son of a family of 12. His father, Colonel Young, came of prosperous yeoman stock. Blamire Young was educated at the Forest School, Walthamstow, where he received a classical training, and going on to Cambridge university specialized in mathematics. That he completed his course with no better than third-class honours was no doubt partly caused by his discovery of the print collection in the Fitzwilliam museum, and his association with the Cambridge Fine Art Society. It had been intended that he should become a clergyman, but Young felt that he had no vocation for that work and obtained the position of mathematical master at Katoomba College, New South Wales. He remained eight years at the college, and was a capable master taking a full part in the life of the school. In his spare time he practised painting, and meeting Phil May (q.v.) received some instruction from him in painting in oil. In 1893 he returned to England and after working for a few months under Herkomer, became associated with James Pryde and William Nicholson in poster work. In 1895 Young returned to Australia and with the Lindsay brothers and Harry Weston did some excellent posters. But the field was limited and many years of poverty followed, during which a certain amount of writing was done for the press. He began exhibiting at the Victorian Artists' Society, but sales were few and the one-man show was then unknown. During his visit to England he had married Mabel Sawyer, an expert wood-carver, and while the lean period lasted Mrs Young helped to keep the house going by executing commissions for Melbourne architects. It was not until 1911 that the appreciation of Young's art really began to be shown. In that year he held an exhibition at Melbourne of small pictures, some of which had similar qualities to the Japanese coloured wood-cuts of the eighteenth century. Sales were good, partly because the prices were low, and the artist was sufficiently encouraged to hold an exhibition at Adelaide. This was both an artistic and a financial success, other shows followed in Melbourne and Sydney, and at last, in his fiftieth year, Young's reputation as an artist was established. In 1912 he sailed for Europe and after a stay in Spain settled in England. Eighteen months later in August 1914 his first show, opened at the Bailey galleries. All the arrangements had been made and the pictures hung when war broke out. Young had been a good marksman in his youth, and for three years worked as an instructor in musketry and machine-gunnery at a salary of 18s. a week. Immediately after the war he took up his painting again and exhibited at the Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. Back in Australia in 1923 Young established himself at Montrose in the hills about 20 miles east of Melbourne. He acted as art critic for the Herald and held occasional one-man shows. His position was now secure, and he was recognized everywhere as one of the leading artists in water-colour in Australia. He died at Montrose on 14 January 1935 and was survived by his wife and two daughters. He is represented in the Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Geelong galleries. In addition to his newspaper writings he published a one-act play The Children's Bread in 1912, and in 1923 The Proverbs of Goya, an interesting attempt to disclose the inner meaning of Goya's series of etchings known as the "Desparates". Another one-act play, Art for Arts Sake, was produced at the Melbourne Repertory Theatre in 1911.
Blamire Young was 6 feet 3 inches in height, well-built, distinguished and courteous. His quiet meditative manner disguised a humorous and witty character only to be fully appreciated by his intimate friends. He would not take part in any art movement though he condemned none. His work was based on nature, but it was nature seen through a temperament, and he believed that an artist should always be creating something. His composition is good, he had a beautiful sense of pattern and his colour is excellent. His drawing is not always faultless but as a rule he draws firmly enough. He had a vision of beauty, and was able to express it in his own way. It would be a mistake to assume it was an easy way for he was always experimenting and had his share of failures. But he felt that "art is emotional, not precise; a joy, a refuge, a compensation".
Art in Australia, 1921; J. F. Bruce, The Art of Blamire Young; The Argus, 15 and 19 January 1935; R. H. Croll, Preface to Catalogue, 1935; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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