Painter, printmaker and cartoonist, was born and grew up in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Frankston. Encouraged by his father, a schoolteacher who had studied art under Murray Griffin and who painted in his spare time, Rick was painting in oils by the age of 12. He was also encouraged by his aunt Myra Morris, the author friend of Joan Lindsay, Hal Porter etc. who had studied art in youth with Archibald Colquhoun . His sister Liz, nine years his elder, also studied art and introduced him to de Chirico (an early influence) and Dali. Their mother died when Rick was 13. Rick completed his Certificate of Art at Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1965, then enrolled at National Gallery School where he studied with John Brack in 1966 68, winning the 1968 NGV Travelling Scholarship. Untitled , Newspaper Seller and other etchings made in 1968, the final year of his Dip. Painting course (his printmaking teacher was Murray Walker), show a very polarised, black and white view of the world, according to his biographer, Gary Catalano.

Amor became a full time professional artist in 1972 but did not return to etching for 20 years. Influenced by the Mexicans, Siqueros and Orozco, he made cartoons, posters and illustrations in 1969 81 as well as 'high art’ paintings, woodcuts, etchings and mezzotints, nearly all with socio realist and often satirical subjects. He moved into left-wing politics, joining the Australian Labor Party and working as poster-maker, illustrator and cartoonist to the Left. He drew cartoons for Labor Star , the official journal of Victorian branch of the ALP (from 1975), and for Tribune , the Communist Party organ (from 1962?). Malcolm Fraser was a favourite subject.

Undated, circa 1979, original ink drawings of Prince Philip saying to Prince Charles at a Soviet-style art exhibition, 'First time I’ve noticed what damned odd taste old Blunt had!... Be a good chap and stop singing “The Motherland Cares!” Been on the bloody vodka again?’ and of John Laws draped over a Rolls saying, 'Law’s Law… I hate materialism. Materialism has to be rationed!’ (both private collections), both done for Tribune , were included in the 1999 S.H. Ervin b/w exhibition. Other cartoons published in Tribune include: Best Police Force (fat pigman saying 'Listen you whingeing knockers you commo’s, we’ve got the bet police force money can buy!’, published 14 April 1982; 'You can’t arrest me’ (SLNSW ML); and 'Old Wine, New Bottles’ 24 August 1983 (ill. Christine Dixon). Catalano (1992? p.4) reports him saying that he always wanted his cartoons to 'work as a drawing as well as a message’.

Amor had a solo exhibition at the Melbourne Trades Hall in 1978 and became its first artist-in-residence in 1980. He painted in factories and taught painting at Pentridge Gaol. He drew for Trade Union magazines such as Locomotive Journal (cartoons include Fraser as a bull 1978 as well as straight illustrations) and the Meat Employees’ Journal (e.g. pen and ink drawing of a female abbatoir worker on the cover of a 1980 issue). After he met editor Stephen Murray-Smith, who was buying a work at the opening of 'Three Regional Painters’ in 1977, his chief outlet for b/w work was probably Overland , e.g. The Ghost of Gaffer’s Creek 1975, which includes the barmaid from Brack’s 1954 painting The Bar set in a rural milkbar, and The Junk Shop 1977, which includes Brack himself as the shop’s proprietor and two young customers saying 'Anyone here?’; an illustration to Gwen Harwood’s prose sketch no.68 (1977); and a series of caricatures of Australian male artists beginning with Brack in Overland no.74 (1979) and continuing for years with Counihan (4th), Tucker , Williams , Kemp , Pugh , Rees, French (see JK Archive) and Jan Senbergs (the last) inter alia, each drawing adopting the style of the artist depicted.

Other Overland examples are: cover ('On alternate living’) no.79 (April 1980); no.98 (April 1985, 6), illustration to Bruce Dawes poem 'Soap’s Cheap!’ (’“You could smell her a mile off”, so they said,/ wrinkling their noses in disgust, “and wouldn’t you think…?”/ “That’s what I say – soap’s cheap!”/ And yet/ I never once saw her snarl at her five kids who trailed her/ with blotched faces and torn frocks and pants/ through the streets/ like fragments of the grubby petticoat which hung/ at an angle from beneath the dubious skirt/... to let mum through with the family pram/ loaded with paper parcels of the kind/ the poor throughout history are always carrying.’)

Until 1983 Amor, his wife and two children, Lliam and Zoe, lived in a house on 'Mulberry Hill’, Joan Lindsay’s property at Baxter. Then he and his wife divorced. Afterwards he decided to give up cartooning and limit his illustrative work. His 1983-84 woodcut of The Runner nevertheless became a key motif in his paintings and art prints of the 1980s which became increasingly atmospheric in subject and style. This was emphasised by the 1990s use of mezzotint, notably for his Melbourne ports and docks’ series and the images he made after visiting Barcelona on an Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts & Craft Board grant in c.1990.

In Rick Amor and the Graphic Arts: Selected Prints 1968 1997 (Melbourne: Niagara Galleries & NETS Victoria, 1993) Gary Catalano exhibited 50 of the 180+ prints Amor had done up to November 1991 (when he was about to start lithography, the sole technique he had hitherto failed to explore). 'I’m a painter-printmaker’, Amor told Catalano, 'and that’s an entirely different thing [to being solely a printmaker]’. He had a portrait hung in the Archibald in 1996 (and in 1997 and subsequent years: see Catalano 2002). In 1999 the Australian War Memorial (AWM) appointed him an official war artist, with Archibald Prize-winning painter Wendy Sharpe , to travel and record events in East Timor – the first ever to be commissioned in peace time.

Kerr, Joan
Date written:
Last updated: