This striking lifesize figure by Dianne Coulter was awarded the inaugural Blake Prize for Human Justice in 2009 where it was acclaimed as follows: “Cousin Elizabeth NT, is a powerful work amongst many outstanding creations, all helping us to understand our humanity with greater clarity.”
Of her winning entry, Dianne said “I have dressed her immaculately in natural fibre: wool for the lamb, cotton for Egypt that gave sanctuary, pregnant for hope, carrying a loaf of white bread for nourishment – alluding to Christ. Or is she just a frightened, disenfranchised young girl with a lousy loaf of dubious quality bread caught drinking at the wrong watering hole?”
Sheila Hawkins is recognised for her contribution to children’s literature, particularly as an illustrator, and her strong sense of design and layout is evident in her painting. Gyspy Mother embodies an atmosphere of calm, despite the tangle of limbs and foreboding clouds, in a tightly controlled and complimentary colour palette. The monumental maternal figure is a picture of stability and dependence against the writhing child, her vertical presence contrasted against the limbs, rolling hills and clouds.
Largely self-taught, Hawkins moved to England in the early 1930s and travels in Spain inspired her first illustrated story, Pepito (1938), as well as a series of paintings depicting Catalan market scenes. Gypsy Mother was included in her 1939 exhibition at Goupil Gallery, London.
A photograph in the collection of The Australian War Memorial shows Sheila Hawkins in her Hampstead studio around 1944 with the painting Gypsy Mother on the wall behind her.
Her work is represented in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, and in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Thomas Clark painted several views around Melbourne including Red Bluff, Elwood. The area now known as Point Ormond was originally called Red Bluff in 1839 and a quarantine station was established there from 1840. Red Bluff was levelled in 1906 and used to fill in the swampy lands of Elwood.
Clark often used people in his landscapes to enhance the sense of the wonder of nature through the juxtaposition with small figures. The dis-juncture of scale is here being used to emphasise depth, with large figures in the foreground, but the smaller figures probably being significantly smaller than perhaps expected. There is an element of artistic licence in this but it is also typical of Clark’s work.
Clark is a rather elusive figure and his work is rare. He was appointed the first Drawing Master of the School of Design at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1870 – 1876 where his students included Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts. An exhibition at Hamilton Art Gallery in 2013 brought greater focus and attention, showcasing his rather English sensibility, reflected in his subdued palette range, thin application of paint and moist atmosphere depicted in his artworks.
In the late 1970s, Emily took up batik, along with other artists from Utopia, as a means of expressing cultural stories and designs and began painting on canvas in 1988-89. Her earlier work developed a distinctive skeletal linear formation overlaid with dots to form highly abstracted works.
Women’s Dreaming (1993) features these meandering lines to depict the bush potato dreaming (yam or Anatye) with the arcs representative of awelye, ceremonial body design, painted onto women’s breasts and chest.
The legacy of Emily’s prolific and highly successful artistic career has been significant both among Aboriginal artists and the wider community. She is widely regarded as one of the most notable Australian artists of recent times. Her paintings are held in all major museums and galleries in Australia and in significant contemporary collections internationally.
Glenalvon, Murrurundi depicts an area Jessie Scarvell painted on several occasions, the rural landscape around the picturesque mountains of the Liverpool Ranges in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. Scarvell painted en plein air and her harmonious use of colour is clear, with the muted soft purples, grey and green of the background contrasted against the brighter green, blue and touches of pink in the foreground.
The viewer’s eye is attracted by the detailed thistle foliage, echoed in the grasses across the stream, with the white sheep in-between. Textured brush marks and soft light colours give way to a stronger band of green which draws our eye back to the purple mountain range, birds wheeling in the sky amid an aura of calm in this celebration of pastoral beauty.
The painterly marks, particularly evident in the depiction of the stream and grassy bank, and the focus point of yellow flowered pasture weed are reminiscent of archetypical Australian Impressionist paintings such as Charles Conder’s Herrick’s Blossom c.1888 and Arthur Streeton’s Golden Summer, Eaglemont 1889.
Scarvell’s painting Glenalvon, Murrurundi was included in the Art Society of New South Wales annual exhibition in 1895 and illustrated in the catalogue. It appears to be in its original frame.
Scarvell exhibited regularly with the Art Society of New South Wales in the 1890s and was included in the Exhibition of Australian Art in London at the Grafton Galleries in 1898. Her career spans over a short period of perhaps six years in the 1890s, prior to her marriage.
Jessie Scarvell is represented in the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the S. H. Ervin Gallery, where an exhibition of work in 2012 brought new awareness to this female artist of the Australian Impressionist School.
Isobel Rae was known as “Iso”, her nickname a somewhat relevant and familiar word to us today, as was her likely experience of isolation. At the outbreak of World War I, Iso Rae remained in Etaples, France with her mother and sister, whilst most foreigners moved away from the former peaceful fishing village, which had been home to a thriving expatriate artistic community.
Iso and her sister Alison worked for the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) with the British Red Cross from 1915 – 1919. As an artist, Rae depicted the scenes around her, producing around 200 drawings, mostly pastels and gouache, depicting the daily life of the military camp at Etaples.
Her lively and sensitive drawings are now recognised as important historical and social documents, beyond their artistic merit. Although not officially appointed as a war artist, Iso Rae was one of two Australian women who documented the war for many years (the other being Jessie Traill who worked in a military hospital during World War I).
The camp at Etaples was a place where allied troops – French, British, Canadian, Scottish, New Zealand and Australian forces, gathered before being called up to fight; a training facility; supplies depot; a detention centre and home to thousands in tent cities and ordered hospitals. Iso Rae captured camp life in her drawings of soldiers; the barracks; the hospitals; the prisoners, both German and allied; their accommodation; the horses; their training and recreation (football, cinema, theatre).
Iso Rae was a skilled draughtsperson, her marks lively and capturing a spontaneity, yet balanced with thought-out and balanced compositions. This is a particularly fine drawing depicting a group of soldiers huddled around a brazier at night, embers blowing in the breeze and their individual uniforms bathed in an eerie glow. We have identified the figures as Scottish; the blue coat of the Hospital Blues worn by convalescents; Australian with the slouch hat and New Zelander with the ‘lemon squeezer’ hat. The peaked tents in the background provide an anchored backdrop giving a further intimacy to the group of figures.
There is an aura of quiet and calm, the relaxed poses and dangling cigarettes, but one laced with tension or perhaps boredom; the holding pattern of an unknown future the nature for many at Etaples. This is not a depiction of heroes of war, rather the gritty reality and the daily grind of behind the scenes. Rae’s use of coloured paper highlights the contrast between the army brown and the bright red and orange balanced against the blues and touch of green found in a hat band.
The drawing is accompanied by a letter of dedication from the matron at Etaples on behalf of the nurses and VAD to a Captain MacIlwaine.
“The energy and liveliness of outdoor crowds occupied Ethel Carrick Fox throughout her career, and she was particularly fascinated by markets, parks and beaches. Perfect subjects for her swiftly wrought impressions, these turn-of-the-century public spaces were being transformed by modernity.” Angela Goddard, ‘Modernity in Motion: Ethel Carrick’s crowds’ in Art, Love & Life: Ethel Carrick & E. Phillips Fox, Queensland Art Gallery, 2011, p.79
Ethel Carrick Fox has been described as ‘colourful’ and ‘daring’, both in her art and her life. An inevitable comparison with her husband Emanuel Phillips Fox certainly bears this out, as she moved beyond an impressionist sensibility to the more colourful and linear style of post-impressionism, as would have been the flavour in Paris. Her paintings of daily life; flower studies and works inspired by travels, are imbued with vibrant colour, strong composition and a concern to explore light. Her inclusion in the Salon d’Automne (created in 1903 as a move away from the academic and bringing movements such as fauvism and cubism to greater notice) from 1906, further highlights her lifelong trend of not conforming to social expectations of the time; particularly focussing on her career.
Ethel Carrick Fox is best known for her vibrant paintings created en plein air, capturing the leisure class of Paris – the markets; parks; gardens and beaches of France. The rich dabs of pure bright colour and a focus on decorative rather than narrative elements, allow the strength of her understanding of colour and her considered compositions to shine through.
Carrick Fox established her successful career in Paris and London and in her regular visits to Australia, where she held exhibitions of her work and undertook painting excursions. A painting of a French flower market by Carrick Fox sold at auction in 1996 becoming the highest price achieved by an Australian woman artist; with more recent sales over one million dollars (in 2008 and 2019) overtaking this earlier precedent.