The Art of Sacrifice
George Petrou OAM
Crows Nest, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2021
Hardcover 400pp RRP $69.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, November 2021
There is only one way to describe The Art of Sacrifice – a wonderful concept presented in magnificent style - honouring those inspiration and courageous Australians included within its pages!
Petrou struck down by cancer in 2010, was inspired him to use his artistic talent and those of his collaborators to produce works that shone a light on those who showed the typically Australian Anzac spirit. In late 2012 he was at the Australian War Memorial and viewed a photographic exhibition Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt based on Ross Coulthart’s book The Lost Diggers. Coulthart was amenable to Petrou using some of the photographs as subjects for his paintings, as was Kerry Stokes who purchased the thousands of unearthed negatives created by the photographers (the Thuilliers) and donated them to the Australian War Memorial, This led to Petrou’s exhibition that toured in 2015-16, the Victoria Cross Collection touring in 2017-18 and Twelve Great Australian Stories which toured in 2019-20.
After an historical introduction to the creation of the artwork, the balance of the book is devoted to four distinct groups of subjects. The first is based upon both twelve identified soldiers and six unidentified from the Vignacourt collection. The second group is a selection of 21 from Australia’s 101 Victoria Cross recipients, whilst the third group consists of ten easily-recognizable great Australians including ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Sir Sidney Kidman. The final sixteen subjects have, as Australian citizens, over the past 120 years displayed bravery or contributed to the health, welfare and remembrance of our service personnel.
For each of the subjects a background has been provided by a descendant, or an historian who has met the descendants or thoroughly researched available historical records. Petrou provides his comments about what he has endeavoured to portray in his work on each subject. For many subjects, Petrou’s portrait is photographed being held by a descendant in a sensitively significant environment – a very fitting touch indicating they and their efforts have not been forgotten.
Weighing in at 2.8 kilos, this beautiful work is strictly a coffee table book. It urges us to return to it over and over so we may experience both the exploits of the individuals and the consummately sensitive artistic skill of George Petrou.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.