Stacha Halpern’s paintings are not easy to forget he would bound into them with an energy and verve that didn’t stop until they were completed. They leave an indelible impression in one’s mind and love them or hate them one never forgets them.
Halpern returned to Australia in 1966 but the reception his work received was disappointing for him. The scrap between the abstractionists and antipodeans was still in play and despite a successful career in France, the Australian public wasn’t ready for a naturalised expatriate whose images seemed to have a foot in both camps – figurative with the antipodeans and expressionist with the others. It would take almost three decades before the public was able to step up to the mark even though Halpern had champions along the way, desperately wanting to help the others to see.
Stan Rapotec, another émigré would say of his own career, after he was mistaken for an overnight sensation “…. I firmly and strongly believe now, that to build up an artist in any field you need twenty years of struggle – struggling, battling, performing, experimenting, exercising and, yes, exposing oneself in one’s work to the full brunt of criticism.” Halpern had already served an apprenticeship in Paris – he had achieved prominence and success there in just fifteen years but that didn’t count in Australia, he still had his time to serve and one can be confident in saying that he would have given the time, as above all else – including his Polish birthplace and his European successes – he considered himself to be Australian.
Unfortunately Halpern didn’t have another 20 years to give and died through heart disease in 1969 – three years after his return.
Halpern’s position and effect in the international art scene of the 60’s is finally being respected in Australia. A Parisian art critic referred him to as an example of what young French artists should aspire to; he hung in galleries alongside Rothko, Guston and Frankenthaler. His works were exhibited at group and solo shows in Paris, Rome, New York, Amsterdam, Basle and Milan. And unlike many of those Australians that preceded him to Europe, he was to have a real effect in the international art scene, particularly in Paris.