(Fairy and Robin)

Dorothea Francis

(Fairy and Robin) by Dorothea Francis


Dorothea Francis
(Fairy and Robin)
watercolour on paper
16 x 24 cm

signed lower right: Dorothea Francis

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Further Information

Dorothea Francis enjoyed painting from childhood and by 1922, aged 19, was exhibiting with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. It can be assumed that her parents encouraged her in her artistic pursuits, perhaps with the understanding that private art classes were an acceptable activity or leisure pursuit for a young woman from Toorak. Francis studied with Isabel Nankivell and then, in the 1930s, studied painting and drawing with Catherine Hardess, who had graduated from the Slade School.

Dorothea’s younger sister, Margaret studied art with George Bell and shared his modernist teachings with her. From the early 1940s, Dorothea also attended the classes George Bell offered weekly from his studio in Selbourne Road and was influenced to progress from her more realistic style. She exhibited with the Bell established Melbourne Contemporary Artists.

Around 1937 she illustrated an Australian version ofAlice in Wonderland. The State Library of Victoria holds in its collection a series of anatomical drawings, as well as a number of still lifes, evidence of her dedication to her studies.

In the 1930s she created a number of watercolours depicting ethereal fairies. Ida Rentoul Othwaite illustrated fairies for stories written by her sister Annie, from 1903 and her fine art book, Elves and Fairies, was first published in 1916. Along with a number of other books, she exhibited her work regularly until the early 1930s.  May Gibbs’ beloved Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published in 1918. Ola Cohn published The Fairies’ Tree in 1932, long before the carved version in the Fitzroy Gardens became a reality. It is likely that Dorothea Francis knew Ola Cohn, both being members of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters from the early 1920s.

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