A Review of Albert Tucker's Painting Memory of Leonski

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Memory of Leonski by Albert Tucker

“Memory of Leonski” is a painting Albert Tucker completed in 1943 in a demoralising and animalistic way, to expose the details of the high profile crime Private Edward Leonski, an American GI in the Second World War, committed in 1942. He strangled three Melbourne women and left their bodies with their genitals exposed. Tucker also painted this to depict the brutal power that war and the dangerous American sexuality had over Australia. This crime represents the negative attitudes Australia had towards the GIs, as Australians thought only an American could carry out such sensational sex crimes. This compelling image reflects on the social turmoil that society went through during this time, as the people became vulnerable and very absorbed towards the soldiers. Tucker uses symbols such as the army aircraft in the sky and the American flag to demonstrate the American-ness of Leonski, the favourable responses from the people in Melbourne and implies that war and the temporary conditions that overturned traditional beliefs of masculinity and femininity distort the standards of right and wrong to the point of uncertainty. The large and obscurely sexual body crushing a dove in its left hand is symbolic for the loss of innocence of the young girls who developed a keen sense of the serious and distressing problem of claiming the right to do, as they like as well as the vulnerability of their bodies. The open hand represents the murder weapon. The scandalous display of the backside and genitals coincides with the semi-naked state in which Leonski’s victims were found. This work is a powerful comment on the very reason as to why society was resentful of the exaggerated influence of Americanisation that instigated repositioning the ways in which men and women thought about their bodies and their relationships with one another. This alludes to the sense that Australian masculinity was under pressure to transform...
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