THE MUSE OF MOUNT PLEASANT
“My uncle found his fulfilment in poring his heart and soul into the art of his winemaking. In the present work, I believe I have come to the essence of Maurice O’Shea’s muse at Mount Pleasant.” GS
Maurice O’Shea 1987 – 1956, is best remembered as this country’s most celebrated wine maker having studied at Grignon University in Montpellier, France. He founded Mount Pleasant Wines at Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley in 1922 when hardly anyone in Australia drank table wine. Through the twenties and the Great Depression, O’Shea devoted his life and turned a remote Hunter Valley vineyard into an Australian legend.
Marcia Singer Fuller a cultured pianist was the love of his life. They married in 1926 and had a daughter Simone. Maurice was a devout Catholic and Marcia a firm Protestant, and life in the country together was to prove difficult for them in many ways. Marcia left Maurice in 1936. In his grief Maurice poured his heart and soul into the legendary dry red Mountain ‘A’ 1937, acknowledged by connoisseurs as one of the greatest wines produced in Australia.
Throughout Garry Shead’s childhood his family would spend Easter at Mount Pleasant. These visits were very important to Shead cultural development and where he saw his uncle expressing joy in socialising and celebration around food and fine wine in great company. Maurice was an excellent cook.
It is these impressions and memories that first inspired the many images dating back to Shead’s adolescent works in the 1950s through to a series of paintings exhibited at Watter’s Gallery in the 1960s. These paintings used wine glass bases as spectacles to mimic the extreme myopia of his uncle.
More recent exhibitions, curated by Gavin Wilson and titled, ‘Love on Mount Pleasant – Garry Shead Toasts Maurice O’Shea’, have been exhibited in the Regional Galleries of Orange & Maitland NSW, Australian Galleries in Sydney and Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane.
Shead’s images bring together the sacramental aspect of wine in its Christian manifestation and also the pagan Dionysian festive influences of wine, incorporating ritual madness and ecstasy.