Australian Fine Artist

Video: The Rebel (1961)
Tony Hancock

With our regular tutor away again today, we had a stand in tutor who presented a video that he said should be watched by all arts students before they finish their courses.

In humour can be found a grain of truth. This movie, although very tongue in cheek and meant to be a satire of the life of someone convinced they are meant to be an artist, and his travels and troubles in trying to achieve his dream, can be a bit of a warning in the real world about entering the arts market for the first time. It should also be a lesson about what part of the market we want to be in and whether we want to keep our art as a hobby to enjoy rather than a stressful job we may have to endure.

This poor guy, using the name Anthony Hancock is working in an office where everyone looks the same, everything is regimented to the tiniest degree and individuality is not accepted at all. His life to him is going nowhere and his hobby, kept secret from the landlady, has taken over his bedroom.

One day he loses the plot and his boss suggests that he take some time off as he thinks he needs to pull himself together. Tony on the other hand, needs to take up the challenge of art. His landlady finds out what he has been doing and kicks him out so he packs up and goes to Paris to be an artist. There he thinks, he will be with likeminded people and will be able to express himself freely. I think he should have taken notice of the omen of his statue first losing its head on a bridge and then being dropped in the drink at the docks.

In Paris he meets up with an artist and is invited to move in so they can share ideas and paint, and more importantly… pay the rent. By the mere fact that he seemed to be able to sprout a lot of incomprehensible dribble about art and his paintings, Tony is invited to more and more arts events and parties. He is suddenly “the guy” people want to listen to even though his flatmate is the one with all the talent.

Finally in distress the flatmate leaves to go back to England, leaving his paintings to Tony to paint over or whatever he likes. At this point an art collector discovers him, or in reality his flatmate and he doesn’t tell him they are not his works as the collector thinks his paintings are rubbish. Tony is flung into fame, with an exhibition and people wanting his work (which is not his at all). All well and good until he is asked to do another lot of work for a show in the UK.

Frantically he gets in touch with the flatmate to get some new paintings and set things right. He has been living in tony’s old residence and now has a steady job and only paints for fun. He however lets Tony have the work and the exhibition is set up. The only problem is that the collector hasn’t seen the paintings and neither has Tony. As i expected, the friend has now taken on Tony’s “style” of naive painting and Tony is nearly having a kitten. The collector however say how it is genius! Confusion reigns as Tony tries to understand how the same style can be done by someone else and it goes from rubbish to brilliant. He hands over his token gold watch, ring and bits and pieces from his earnings and tells everyone who the real artist is… and who has all the money… the collector/agent of course! So the movie ends up with him back in his little flat doing a new sculpture in his own naive style with the landlady as the model. Happy I think, that he has found his place with his art.


Tony got away from a place where everyone looked the same and sounded the same to go to another place where everyone looked the same and sounded the same. What a joke as everyone in their little berets and all in black looked around in their garret in Paris saying how sad it was to be in a place where everyone looked the same! I have thought for many years about this as I have watched generations try so hard to be “different” and end up looking the same as each other.

There’s a song about little boxes, little boxes all in a row and they all look just the same. I thought about this during the movie.

We often try so hard to be different that we become a sort of parody or satire ourselves. We look for the right group, the right place, the right whatever. I have failed to fit into so many groups that I finally gave up on the whole idea.

It is similar for the frantic search for fame and wealth, I worked so hard for a lot of years to end up gaining not a lot really except some interesting experience and a lot of lessons learnt. Now I do what I do because I love it, it is a challenge and the income and any notice I may get because of it will be a bi-product because I am working hard doing what I love to the best of my ability. The measure of my success will be with my own yardstick not someone else’s. Hopefully I will keep control over most of it and not be at the whim and will of too many people with their own agendas.

Like I said earlier, a satire and a funny movie with some real life and current issues hidden in the plot.

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