- Bertha Merfield
- oil on board
- 34 x 20 cm
signed lower left: B.E. Merfield
This painting depicting the cliffs of Mentone echoes celebrated paintings of the site by artists of the Australian Impressionist movement including Tom Roberts and Charles Conder. The tight composition places the viewer high on the sheer cliffs, with the sandy beach below. The linear and textured brushstrokes emphasise this steep drop, with the hardy coastal plants clinging to the cliffedge, whilst the zig-zag across the canvas contrasts with the view across the rippling open water to sailboats in the distance.
Bertha Merfield studied for a time in Europe with George Clausen in London; as well as attending the Colorossi School in Paris. On her return to Melbourne, she attended the National Gallery of Victoria School (1897-1898) and the Melbourne School of Art (1895-1901) under Emanuel Phillips Fox and Tudor St George Tucker. She later continued her studies in London at the Slade School. Merfield was a founding member of the Twenty Melbourne Painters Society and Member of the London Society of Mural Decorators and Painters in Tempera.
She held two solo exhibitions at the Athenaeum and was acclaimed for the mural she painted for Café Australia in Melbourne, the richly detailed and ornamental building designed by Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin which opened in 1916 and was demolished in 1938. Merfield was influenced by the impressionist style of fellow women artists, C. Asquith Baker, Jessie Laver Evans, Ina Gregory, Lilla Reidy, Jane Sutherland and Violet Teague.
Merfield lived most of her life with her mother in Brunswick, before her premature death aged 52, following her death by suicide.