Ron Mueck’s ‘In bed’: Is she anxious or quietly reflective?


Ron Mueck’s In bed depicts a middle-aged woman who has been carefully composed so that the position of her body and facial expression suggest a range of possible emotional states. Is she anxious or quietly reflective? While the viewer may at first be taken aback by the monumental scale of the work, this is ultimately tempered by the decidedly familiar and domestic nature of the subject.

Ron Mueck, Australia/England b.1958 / In bed 2005 / Mixed media / Purchased 2008. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ron Mueck

Mueck is widely recognised as among the most significant contemporary artists working in a realist tradition. His sculptures are the result of an extremely time-consuming process that requires meticulous attention to detail. The works often begin as sketches on paper and small-scale plaster maquettes which enable the artist to experiment with the subject’s pose and demeanour. This work involved the construction of a large metal armature which was covered in plaster and modelling clay. A silicon mould was then painstakingly prepared to give the skin a natural-looking texture and colour. Hairs were individually inserted into hand-drilled holes and finer details such as veins and imperfections in the skin were painted directly onto the work.