Martin Ritchie Sharp (21 January 1942 – 1 December 2013[1]) was an Australian artist, cartoonist, songwriter and film-maker.

Sharp was called Australia's foremost pop artist.[2] Sharp co-wrote one of Cream's best known songs, "Tales of Brave Ulysses", created the cover art for Cream's Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire albums.


Sharp was born in Bellevue Hill, New South Wales in 1942, and educated at Cranbrook private school, where one of his teachers was the artist Justin O'Brien. In 1960, Sharp enrolled at the National Art School at East Sydney.

He also designed at that time a controversial poster titled "Rasputin & his London Popes" for an antique shop in Barcelona run by a young Spanish photographer named Alexis de Vilar.

Sharp designed at least two posters for Australia's premier contemporary circus, Circus Oz including the iconic 'World-famous'/'Non-Stop Energy' design.

Later interests

For the most of the 1970s and beyond, Sharp's work and life was dominated by two major interests: Sydney's Luna Park and the entertainer Tiny Tim.

Luna Park

Sharp's involvement with the restoration of Luna Park in the 1970s proved a bittersweet experience.

A year later, as pressure mounted to redevelop the prime harbourside site, an arson attack in the Luna Park Ghost Train claimed seven lives, including a father and his two sons. The Luna Park fire was a turning point in Sharp's life; like many others he firmly believed that the fire was a deliberate act of terrorism aimed at destroying the park and making the site available for redevelopment and in a 2010 interview on the ABC Radio National program The Spirit of Things,[3] he revealed that the fire and the circumstances surrounding it had exerted a profound effect on his spiritual outlook.[4]

Tiny Tim

Sharp first saw performer Tiny Tim at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968 at the suggestion of Eric Clapton. From that time on, Tiny Tim was one of Sharp's strongest inspirations.

"Tim's appropriation of song is very much like my appropriation of images. We are both collagists taking the elements of different epochs and mixing them to discover new relationships."


Sharp's work was celebrated in many exhibitions including a special Yellow House exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW and a major retrospective at the Museum of Sydney which ran from October 2009 to March 2010.

Sydney Opera House

Sharp maintained a lifelong friendship with artist Lin Utzon, daughter of the Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. The Danish architect was controversially forced from his uncompleted masterpiece in 1966 and secretly left Australia with the aid of Sharp's mother.

In the mid-1990s, Sharp helped broker a reconciliation between the Sydney Opera House and Jørn Utzon, who subsequently developed a set of design principles to guide the building's future.[5]


Sharp inherited the heritage-listed house Wirian,[6] in Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, Sydney, in 1978. The house had been bought by Sharp's grandfather, Stuart Douglas Ritchie, a merchant, in 1937 for 20,000 pounds.[7] Sharp lived there until he died from emphysema on 1 December 2013, at the age of 71.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Andrew Frost. "Martin Sharp, Australian artist who came to symbolise the '60s, dies aged 71 | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Martin Sharp – obituary". The Telegraph. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. ^ The Spirit of Things
  4. ^ "The Spiritual Vision of Martin Sharp – The Spirit of Things". ABC Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  5. ^ Morgan, Joyce (24 January 2017). "How Martin Sharp brokered Sydney Opera House reconciliation". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Wirian – House, Stone Fences, Retaining Walls and Gateposts | NSW Environment & Heritage". 1 December 1917. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  7. ^ Artist Martin Sharp tells Cranbrook school hands off estate Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  8. ^ Morgan, Joyce (2 December 2013). "Icon of 1960s art scene Martin Sharp dies aged 71". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 2 December 2013.

Further reading

  • Morgan, Joyce. Martin Sharp: His Life and Times. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2017. ISBN 978-1760111755