Great Art: Howard Arkley’s 1999 Nick Cave Portrait & Studies

Continuing my own version of the history of art or just starting it here on my blog with post number four after the three last week. I’ve now moved on to some dead artists this week, well that is at this point I think they all are visual artists and painters but all are dead! Which means they’re are more well known but we’ll see, if you know them? Remember pop quiz at any moment!

Introducing if you don’t know him? Or re-viewing him, if you do? The Aussie artists and painter Howard Arkley with a portrait and the studies for one of my fave singer-songwriter Nick Cave! I’m collecting all the known images I know of in one easy place. I’ve gone hunting before for them so why the shit I haven’t I done this before?

Just before his death in 1999, Howard was commissioned to do a Nick Cave painting for the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra where it still hangs to this day. Following it was some very belief talk about Arkley doing the next Bad Seeds album cover but he died of an overdoses before anything could be done about that. In 1999, if you need reminding Cave had just released his very first Best Of comp album and then the year before his tenth Bad Seeds The Boatman’s Call album was released which was hot on the heels of the most successful Murder Ballards album the year before that.

Another Aussie artist and oil painter Tony Clarke artwork featured on both the front of that Best Of comp album and three years later the next studio album by Cave and his Bad Seeds 2001’s No More Shall We Part. Clarke and Arkley were great friends and both Melbourne visual artists. His painting below are made with synthetic polymer paint on canvas and even the black and white drawings on paper, yeah one is on the front and the other is on the back is synthetic polymer paint too, basically it’s what you use with an air brush which is what Howard used.



Study for Nick Cave portrait, 1999 (double sided drawing)
Study for Nick Cave portrait, 1999 (double sided drawing)
Work in progress, photo taken by Alison Burton
Nick Cave, 1999

It’s worth saying here Nick himself enter rehab one last time to get clear around this time of Howard’s heroin OD death. I will come back to some more of Howard Arkley artworks with a few more of my fave paintings of his at a later date sometime soon but he did do a lot of paintings of Aussie suburbans and house or home’s interiors which I got to think maybe just could have inspired the video clip a little bit for Love Letter from that 2001 album. Love Letter was the first song wrote for that next album but I did see it debut live almost a year earlier at one of his stripped back shows they labelled “solo” show. He did have Warren Ellis playing with him on almost all songs, the drummer was Jim White which both him and Ellis played in the band Dirty Three too but also the bass player on that tour was Susan Stenger. In 2000 Cave did release a spoken word disc entitled The Secret Life Of The Love Song with The Flesh Made Word but it wasn’t all him talking because one of the few songs was Love Letter and it was the same line-up for this recording as that “solo” tour too. Anyway here’s that Love Letter song video clip now, enjoy!

Cheers 🙂


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