The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

2013, oil on canvas, 178 x 105 cm

Child Catcher cloak
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (movie)
Directed by Ken Hughes
Screenplay by Rhold Dhal (based on the book by Ian Flemming)

This eye-catching cloak was worn by the Child Catcher to lure vulgar children so he could snatch and imprison them. Robert Helpmann play the original child catcher. The cloak was made by the legendary costume designer Monty Berman.

Yvonne East: Art + Object is an exhibition of artwork that East originally created after being inspired by the fabrics, textures and stories of objects held by the Performing Arts Collection at Adelaide Festival Centre. In 2020 for the very first time the original “muse” objects are on display side by side with East’s artworks.

In 2012 in the foyer of the Adelaide Festival Centre I first laid eyes on the Child Catcher cloak worn by Robert Helpmann in the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was instantly drawn to it, it was not only beautiful but has a history that I wanted to spend time with, I wanted to sit with this object. I wanted to paint it. This is how I found out about the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Performing Arts Collection. I was given full access to the collection which uncovered a world of fascinating South Australian stories.

From costumes designed by renowned South Australian artist Dorrit Black (1891-1951) to the priceless authentic Eastern costumes and jewellery collections of the passionate and obstinate Patricia Hackett (1908-1963). Behind each object is a story – a history of an extraordinary South Australian.

After spending some time with these objects, I couldn’t help but attribute characteristics like bold, complex, demure, or quirky. The Pelham Puppets demonstrate this perfectly – while small and delicate to handle, when rendered with expressive gestures in large scale paintings their personalities become larger than life. The quiet life of an object transformed into art.