The Melbourne Fair

Come and visit us this weekend at The Melbourne Fair showing at the Caulfield Racecourse – Friday 25/Saturday 26 March 10am – 6pm and Sunday 27 10am – 5pm. We are showing a range of Australian painting, drawings and decorative arts including a large colonial painting by Henry Reilly; an atmospheric landscape by Australian Impressionist Jessie Scarvell; a striking Still Life paintings by Roy de Maistre and Bessie Davidson; artworks by Sidney Nolan; Albert Tucker; John Perceval, Clif Pugh; Brett Whiteley; a new work by Zhou Xiaoping; ceramic work by Stephen Bowers and a selection of indigenous paintings from Utopia including an impressive diptych by Angelina Ngal, whose forthcoming exhibition opens 6th April at the Gallery. We also are showing a few drawings by Constance Stokes in conjunction with our exhibition which concludes 31 March.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

It is fortuitous timing that our exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Constance Stokes coincides with International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March. Constance Stokes’ life represents the myriad issues facing female artists, particularly pursuing an active career as a professional artist whilst also supporting a family and fitting with societal expectations of the time. Constance Parkins was a talented and dedicated student who travelled overseas to further her artistic studies. Following classes at the Gallery School at the National Gallery of Victoria under Bernard Hall, she was awarded the Travelling Scholarship in 1929 which enabled her to continue her studies at the Royal Academy in London and in Paris in the summer of 1931 with Andre Lhote who was to have a profound influence on her. Her success as an artist was recognised with numerous exhibitions and her inclusion in the Twelve Australian Artists exhibition at Burlington Galleries, London in 1953 and at the 1953 Venice Biennale. Constance married Eric Stokes in 1933 and between 1937 and 1942 they had three children. Constance Stokes is on record as describing the difficulties of combining her career and motherhood, even with a supportive husband, admitting that each impacted the other.

Eric’s early death in 1962 forced a greater impetus to maintain her career and Stokes continued with successful exhibitions. Her paintings of women are particularly prized, their warmth and intimacy matched with bold use of colour. Her works on paper, mostly depicting women, highlight her drawing skill and lyrical line.

As Dr Juliette Peers noted in the catalogue essay for our exhibition:

“For Stokes, as recounted in interviews, the driving factors of her art were her imagination, her sense of design, and, increasingly at the end of her career, revisiting and reinterpreting her own previous works and studies. “Actually, most of my paintings are from imagination or memory.“[i] Women stand at the centre of her imagery, as she said “the woman takes first place”.[ii] Many of the works in this present collection reflect her preference for portraying women. Her female studies became particularly important during the later phase of her career, when she, in effect, rebuilt her practice and her confidence after the early death of her husband in 1962. At this date Stokes faced a very different and not always congenial artistic, social and political world to the one in which she first found fame. Her response to these changing times and practices was to heighten her colour and simplify her compositions. “ Juliette Peers, Constance Stokes 1906 – 1991, catalogue essay for Lauraine Diggins Fine Art exhibition, 2021

It is fitting on International Women’s Day that we recognise the talents of Constance Stokes, as a woman, as well as celebrate her depictions of women.

Constance Stokes Woman in Patterned Robe
Constance Stokes Woman in Patterned Robe

Learn more about Constance Stokes on our exhibition page where you can enjoy viewing the artworks, accessing the catalogue with essay by Dr Juliette Peers and listen to Dr Gerard Vaughan discussing the exhibition and Constance Stokes oeuvre. The exhibition is showing until 31 March 2022.

Rover Thomas at National Museum of Australia

A masterwork by the iconic Kimberley artist Rover Thomas has been donated to the National Museum of Australia in honour of Lauraine Diggins OAM. The large-scale painting Jabanunga depicts the Rainbow Serpent penetrating the earth following a subterranean journey in the wake of Cyclone Tracey’s destruction of Darwin.

Lauraine was a strong supporter of Indigenous art on the international stage. “During her lifetime Lauraine was determined to do whatever she could and use her considerable influence to ensure that many of the important art works created in Australia and overseas became part of the national Estate”, says Michael Blanche, Lauraine’s husband and Director of Lauraine Diggins Fine Art and an advocate for philanthropy. Michael, along with co-Director, daughter Nerida Blanche, intend on donating a series of artworks in memory of Lauraine.

Read media coverage about this important painting below:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-25/act-indigenous-artwork-gifted-to-national-museum-of-australia/100859146

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7633241/national-museum-acquires-12-million-rover-thomas-work/

https://www.smh.com.au/culture/art-and-design/a-national-cultural-plan-can-help-anchor-our-identity-but-no-one-is-listening-20220223-p59z12.html

Jessie Scarvell

The S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney recently posted this video with Director Jane Watters highlighting their holdings of artworks by Jessie Scarvell, which were gifted by her daughter. Scarvell (1862 – 1950) was an exponent of Australian Impressionism who exhibited over 60 of her plein air landscapes at the Art Society of NSW throughout the 1890s. Following her marriage in 1901, she moved to a cattle station in Queensland and focussed on her gardening rather than pursuing an artistic career. Scarvell was included in the Exhibition of Australian Art in London in 1898. Her paintings are characterised by a harmonious use of colour and painterly marks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjXgGPgC8ig

Jessie Scarvell Glenalvon Murrurundi 1895
Jessie Scarvell Glenalvon Murrurundi 1895

Read further about Jessie Scarvell

Nora Heysen

The Fierce Girls podcast series on the ABC recently featured artist NORA HEYSEN – first female artist to win the coveted Archibald Prize in 1938 and first woman to be appointed an official war artist.

Nora Heysen’s talent was recognised early by her father, the acclaimed artist Hans Heysen. As he noted in a letter to Lionel Lindsay June 1927 when Nora was aged 16 :

“Did I ever tell you – we have another artist in the family! Nora has decided on the profession, and is showing remarkable aptitude. She seems to possess the natural talent and endless industry and concentration to make a success of it … She draws quite naturally – has a splendid sense of proportion and feeling for design …”

Her skill as a draughtsman was built through dedicated study under a disciplined, academic drawing regime, firstly at the North Adelaide School of Fine Art and later at London Central School under Bernard Meninsky and the Byam Shaw School, where drawing from the live model was a fundamental component of the training. 

Her mastery of drawing the human figure is unquestionable and her work exhibits strong modelling and graceful line. Her figures are drawn with authority and fidelity. Heysen moved to Sydney on her return to Australia and in 1943 she was appointed the first female official war artist, travelling to New Guinea where she later returned with her husband, Dr Robert Black, a specialist in tropical dieseases. Her ability to capture faces and people with an appealing accuracy and individual personality is especially revealed in these drawings.


View available works by Nora Heysen through our website

In the Spotlight: Sophie Steffanoni

Sophie Steffanoni About Windsor 1898
Sophie Steffanoni About Windsor 1898

Sophie Steffanoni had been consigned to the ranks of overlooked women artists of the turn of the twentieth century until a cache of her artwork and correspondence were discovered in 1987, leading to an exhibition of her work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1996. Steffanoni was a professional artist, working for the family embroidery business where she was the main designer and receiving first prize at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago with her embroidered Australian Coat of Arms.  She was a member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, regularly exhibiting between 1895 – 1903. Steffanoni took painting lessons with William Lister Lister, along with fellow students including Jessie Scarvell, where she would have been exposed to painting en plein air. Her work was praised by newspaper critics, with her painting Paradise Hill, Blackheath, illustrated in the Sydney Mail in 1903. Sadly, Steffanoni died of tuberculosis aged only thirty-two.

About Windsor, painted in 1898, presents a delightful bucolic farmyard scene, a cottage on a hill scattered with cascading flowers; misty purple hills in the background; bright green grass, shown in both sunlight and shadow and dotted with flowers; and a picturesque meandering track, framed by trees on either side of the canvas and leading the viewer’s eye to the gate and beyond, where a house can be seen with smoke curling from the chimney. On the way down the path, there are a ducks and chickens, presided over by a loyal black dog. Farmyard scenes featuring chickens was a popular subject, also captured by Clara Southern, AME Bale, Girolamo Nerli, Frederick McCubbin, Walter Withers, John Ford Paterson, Sydney Long, Arthur Streeton.

The location of Windsor, New South Wales was a popular spot for artists with its picturesque farmyard buildings, orchard blossoms and expanse of fields, along with the river and mountains. Artists who are known to have painted there towards the end of the nineteenth century including Lister Lister and Julian Ashton, who contributed to a group of artists tasked with illustrating the area around the Hawkesbury River for The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia in the 1880s. Conder painted there in the spring of 1888 and other artists include the Collinridge brothers, Henry Fullwood, AJ Daplyn, Sydney Long and Arthur Streeton. Paintings of the Hawkesbury by Sophie’s father, Lewis Steffanoni, are in the family collection, so it is an area she would have known from a young age and one she may have visited later as a student of Ashton on a sketching trip. 

About Windsor highlights Steffanoni’s skill in capturing the Australian light and atmosphere in a palette recognisable to the plein air painters of what can be broadly termed Australian Impressionism. The painting is likely to have been sold in her lifetime, as it was not included in the family discovery in 1987, which indicates it’s appeal and importance within her oeuvre, further evidenced by the inclusion in the Spring Exhibition with Joseph Brown in 1979.

Read further about this painting

MARIAN ELLIS ROWAN – Blue Flowers

MARIAN ELLIS ROWAN exhibition continues through September.

Marian Ellis Rowan (1848 – 1922) was a remarkable woman, who blurred the lines between fine art and natural history illustration with artworks characterised not only by their detailed accuracy but also her own compositional charm and touches of dramatic interest, such as the inclusion of insects, adding more life, narrative interest and sense of scale.

This artwork (Blue Flowers, possibly Scaevola Basedowii) is indicative of her passion for depicting the flora of Western Australia, where she visited in 1880 and again in 1906. Scaevola derive from the hot and arid outback and is also known as the fan flower due to its petals. Ellis Rowan tended to use coloured paper for her artworks and this more centrally placed display of the spidery network of branches juxtaposed with the delicate small blue flowers, suggests it is from earlier in her career, coinciding with her visits to WA.

This celebrated and prolific artist with her reputation for painting wildflowers is represented in many public collections including significant holdings at:

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
National Herbarium, Melbourne
National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
National Library of Australia
National Trust of Australia
Queensland Museum
Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art
Royal Botanic Gardens, Adelaide

With thanks to the staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne for expert advice regarding identification.

Read further here

(Blue Flowers, possibly Scaevola Basedowii)
gouache on paper, 53 x 36 cm

MARIAN ELLIS ROWAN August – September 2021

Exhibition Online

Marian Ellis Rowan (1848 – 1922) was a remarkable woman who travelled around the world to capture exotic flora in her elegant paintings. First inspired by the gardens of her youth at Mount Macedon, Victoria and family connections to government botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, she became a celebrated artist known for depicting wildflowers and birdlife, recording numerous botanical species throughout remote Australia; New Zealand; the United Kingdom; the United States of America and Papua New Guinea.

This exhibition is a small representation of Rowan’s extensive work and is indicative of her broad travels and includes a fully illustrated flipbook catalogue with accompanying essay.

Eclectus Parrot (Male),
watercolour & gouache on paper, 22.5cm diam.

This celebrated and prolific artist with her reputation for painting wildflowers is represented in many public collections including significant holdings at the National Library of Australia and the Queensland Museum; as well as the National Gallery of Australia; the National Gallery of Victoria; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Western Australia; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Adelaide; the National Herbarium, Melbourne; the National Trust of Australia; the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. 

With thanks to the staff at the National Herbarium, Melbourne for their expert advice regarding identification of selected artworks.

The Sheltered Nest (detail)
watercolour and gouache on paper, 52.5 x 27 cm

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In The Spotlight…Robert Dickerson

ROBERT DICKERSON 1924 – 2015Landscape with Figures 1946
enamel paint on composition board, 76 x 91 cm, signed lower right: Dickerson 11/10/46

Provenance:
Rudy Komon Gallery, Sydney
Lauraine Diggins Gallery, Melbourne
David Bremer, Melbourne
Deutscher Fine Art, Carlton
John and Marita McIntosh, Melbourne
The Collection of John and Marita McIntosh, Mossgreen, Melbourne, 15 October 2013, lot 11 as Landscape with Figures
Private collection, Melbourne

Welcome to IN THE SPOTLIGHT, where we continue to focus on artworks from our stockroom and provide some context around the work and its artist.

Robert Dickerson was self-taught as an artist, visiting the National Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Australian Museum as a boy, closely examining different artists’ techniques. At around 14 years of age, he worked as a factory worker and trained as a boxer, becoming a professional fighter at 15. He enlisted, aged 18, and served in the Royal Australian Air Force. Whilst waiting to be demobilized at the end of the Second World War, he drew and painted East Indian children in Morotai (a Dutch Island in the East Indies, now Malaysia). On Dickerson’s return to Australia, he began to paint, working with a limited palette and often using enamel on cardboard. Landscape with Figures was painted soon after Dickerson’s return, undertaken as an exercise in painting, and a continuation of his exploration of figures while utilising enamel. He held is first exhibition at Blaxland Gallery, Sydney in 1949. His reputation as an artist was established during the 1950s with the support of John Reed and of Rudy Komon, with whom he exhibited from 1959. He participated in the Antipodean exhibition in Melbourne in August 1959, the only Sydney artist. His figurative work portrays individuals in both urban and rural settings with an overriding emotional mood and psychological insight, all conveyed in Dickerson’s unique and recognisable visual language, one he continued with throughout his artistic practice, which lasted right up until his death, aged 91.
 
“Waiting many months in the islands to be demobbed after the war was over could have been a time of great tedium. But the Services library had given Bob a novel by Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, and he realized that Gauguin chose a South Sea Island for a very good reason: there was no shortage of models. Bob began to draw and paint the children of Morotai. ‘They used to pose for me and sit playing while I drew them.’ In an interview with The Australian in 1969 he told Laurie Thomas he was moved to paint these East Indian children. ‘They used to come and clean up the tent for us, and climb up to get coconuts. They were so undernourished, thin and with that intensity that children have. I felt a great sympathy for these young kids – to see the way their parents were content with this primitive punched-around living. The children were anxious to evolve but nobody was helping them. They even taught us to speak Indonesian – pidgin Malay – and we taught them to speak English. That feeling about kids persisted in my work because I felt strongly about the children of the whole bloody world as a matter of fact, not the fat complacent little creeps, but the hungry ones.’ Bob thinks most of these paintings were lost in the jungle or given away. ‘I didn’t bring back any of these drawings or paintings, because it’s not easy to carry artworks in a kitbag.’ 

Jenny Dickerson, 
Robert Dickerson: Against the Tide, Pandanus Press, 1994, pp32-33


Robert Dickerson is widely recognised in innumerable private, corporate and major Australian public institutional collections including:

National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
Art Gallery of NSW
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Art Gallery WA
Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery
Art Gallery Ballarat
Newcastle Art Gallery
Australian National University
Holmes à Court Collection 

Further information:
Robert Dickerson – Landscape with Figures
Read other articles – In The Spotlight

In The Spotlight…Charles Conder

CHARLES CONDER, Miss Raynor c.1889, 
oil on canvas on cardboard, 16 x 16 cm

This small, rapidly painted sketch belongs to Conder’s Melbourne years (1888-90) and is typical of his en plein air style. This was a style, developed in the ateliers of Paris and in the summer painting ‘camps’ of rural France in the 1870s that involved the artist capturing and holding the essence of the moment and the scene as he or she stood in front of it. The first marks put onto the canvas were to be the only ones: nothing was to be altered or worked over later, back in the studio. The heart of plein air painting was truth to the moment of vision. Stylistically it was characterised by clarity of vision, an understanding of technique and  poetic response to the moment.

Subject is thus everything and nothing. Miss Raynor, the principal female figure in this sketch is essential for the articulation of the work but only as a form to set against other forms – the heavy cypress tree behind her, the post and rail fence, the smoothness of the gold greens and brown of the paddock in which she stands. Her everyday dress adds to the prosaic note of the sketch, the drab attire enlivened by a few touches of red on the unfurled umbrella at her side.  Behind her stands a second female form, painted even more ethereally in relation to the raking light that falls from left to right across the picture plane and is even less identifiable.

‘Mrs (sic) Raynor was a student friend of Conder and was sketched by him during a picnic outing in Melbourne during his stay there (1889)’. She seems to have modelled for Conder on other occasions. Another study of her, an oil on cedar panel, in which she wears a  rather more elaborate costume and is seated on a river bank, is to be found in the Joseph Brown Collection.

                    Ann Galbally, 
Extract LDFA Annual Collectors’ Exhibition Catalogue 2000

Charles Conder is acknowledged as one of Australia’s most talented artists and is widely recognised in collections by all major Australian public galleries as well as international public galleries. 

Further information:
Charles Conder, Miss Raynor
Charles Conder, Biography
Charles Conder, artworks in the stockroom

Read other – In The Spotlight