AUSTRALIAN WOMEN ARTISTS.
A RECORD OF STRUGGLE AND ACHIEVEMENT
[By William Moore, in The Girl's Realm.]
When the exhibition of Australian women's work was started, by Lady North cote, the wife of the Governor-General in Melbourne in 1907, examples of art by Aus-
tralian women in all the States and in London and Paris were for the first time brought under one roof. The result was an agreeable surprise; for, while some were below mediocrity, the good work in the various mediums from portraits to posters showed that there was a strong art impulse behind the efforts of many of the artists. —A -Distinctive Note.— In every class one could single out more than one study which had a certain dis- tinctive note which mere cleverness could not have conveyed. This exhibition gave a welcome stimulus to the endeavours of the women artists, for increased the de- mand for their work, and roused a keener interest in their future. Since then they have justified anticipations. The women abroad not only get into the Academy and the salons, but also into the international exhibitions, the New English Art Club the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, and the provincial exhibitions both in Great Britain and France. The aim of the women who remain in Australia is to have a work purchased for one of the State galleries, or to win the travelling scholar ship (£150 a year, tenable for three years) which is awarded triennially by the trus- tees of the Melbourne Gallery. The scholarsnip was founded in 1887, and was always won by a male student till 1908, when Miss Constance Jenkins (who won the. principal prize at the Woman's Work Exhibition) distinguished herself by being the first woman to win the coveted honour. Miss C. W. Honey was the next winner. The National School of Art, in which these two artists studied, has turned out quite a number of successful artists. In paren- thesis, it should be recorded that the Go- vernment had the foresight to found this school when the colony of Victoria had only been settled 35 years. Among the artists who got their first training here were:— Bertram Mackennal, A.R.A., who has been commissioned to carry out the King's Memorial in London: Rupert Bunny, who has two works in the Luxem bourg Paris; George Coates, and E. Phil- lips Fox, associate and societaire respec- tively of the New Salon; Bess Norris, Dora Meeson, Ruby Lind, Margaret R. Mac- pherson, Clara Southern, and Hilda Rix. —In the Walker Gallery.— One of the illustrations is from a minia- ture in the Walker Gallery, Liverpool, by Miss Norris, who is the first Australian woman to have a work bought for an Eng- lish gallery. Miss Macpherson is the first to have a work purchased for a Cana- dian State gallery, and Mis Rix the first to have a work purchased by the French Go- vernment for one of its State galleries. Sydney has now a National School of Art, and there are well-equipped technical schools in the other capitals and the prin- cipal provincial centres where drawing and painting are taught by experienced teachers. But after they have gone through the course at these schools a num- ber go abroad to finish their art educa- tion in London or Paris, their object being to get into the salons or the Royal Aca- demy. It is a memorable event when an artist gets her varnishing ticket, for the news is cabled to Australia, and fond friends imagine that she. has already ar- rived. A debut at the Academy or the salons certainly makes the name of the artist on the Australian side, but it need hardly-be said that it takes more than one appearance to attract any attention in Europe. Stll, several go on exhibiting till their work' comes under the notice of critics and artists. In. addition to those mentioned one might refer to Bessie David son, whose work is now attracting atten- tion. She has shown at the New Salon, International at Venice, the Royal Scot tish Academy, Edinburgh, the Water Colour.Club, New, York, and several other societies. Thea Proctor, who has made a success as a painter of fans, has shown at the Royal Academy, the International at Venice, International Society of Sculp- tors, Painters and Gravers, New English Art Club, and the Goupil Gallery; while May Butler George, who showed at the Old Salon last year, was invited to ex- hibit at the Autumn Salon, and had works hung at the Royal Glasgow Institute and the annual exhibition at Walker Gallery, Liverpool. But if Australia itself doesn't offer the same means of distinction it is an inspiring country to paint in. "What wonderful air. What a glorious sunshiny place is Australia" exclaimed Madame Calve when she arrived there. — In the Land of Sunshine. — To an Australian woman her own coun- try is a more agreeable place to live in than those - in northern latitudes, where in winter the sun peeps out at such un- certain intervals. Consequently some of those who visit Europe to study are in clined to return to the land of sunshine. For instance, Miss Alice Musket, who ex- hibited at the Salon, and who is one of the best all-round artists in Australia, is now in Sydney, where she is well represented in the local gallery. Another well-known artist in Sydney is Florence Rodway, who has several works in the gallery. She is a fine draftswoman, and has been very successful in her pastel portraits of chil dren, the drawing of the girl in the "Japa- nese Screen" being an excellent example of ber work. Miss Rodnway was bom in Hobart, Tasmania, which, it may be men- tioned, is the birthplace of Mrs. Humphrey Ward, the novelist. Miss Rodway studied art at the local technical college, and on the strength of the work she submitted from there she was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools, where she passed the necessary examination. —Women Sculptors.— Having dealt with some of the leading painters, let us torn to on interesting group of sculptors. Miss Dora Ohlfsen, who haa spent some years in Rome, has modelled the portraits of such celebrities is the Archduke Eugene of Austria, Mary Anderson, Paolo Toschi and Gabriele d'Annunzio. The bronze head of the poet and other works were purchased by the French Government for the museum of the Petit Palace. Miss Theodora Cowan, who resided in London for some time, did por- traits of the Bishop of London, Sir Gil- bert Parker, Mrs. Brown Potter, Sir Edmund Barton (first Prime Minister of Australia), and other well-known per- sonages. Another sculptor from the Har- bour City is Miss Fairlie Cunninghame, who made her debut at the Academy last year, with a bust of Mr. E. W. Walling- ton (Private Secretary to the Queen). Miss Margaret Baskerville, a descendant at the famous painter, has the distinction of being the first Australian woman to complete a statute-that of the late Sir
Thomas Bent, a former Premier of Vic toria. It is of heroic size, and stands on a pedestal 12. ft. high. At the first exh- bition of Australian art, held in Melbourne in 1857, there was a medallion shown by a girl named Margaret Thomas, who was the first woman to take up the plastic art in Australia. —The "Father" of Sculpture.— Miss Thomas, who is now residing near Letchworth, Herts, was a pupil of Charles Summers, the "father" of sculpture in Australia. Under the title of ''A Hero of a Workshop,'"she has given an interest ing account of this remarkable man who, with no opportunities for education; had to start life earning a shiling a week scaring crows from a wheatfield. After an almost superhuman struggle he was admitted to the Academy Schools in 1850, and in the following year won the first silver medal for the best modelling from life, and the gold medal for the best piece of historical sculpture. Soon afterwards he went to Melbourne, where did did numerous busts, statues, and the sculptural adornments of public buildings. After studying under Summers, Miss Thomas went to London and entered the Academy schools, where she won-the silver medal for sculpture, this being the first occasion the distinction was bestowed on a woman. In the shire hall, Taunton, there is a gallery in which are grouped the busts of Somersetshire wor- thies, Miss Thomas's contributions being the busts of Henry Fielding, Gen. Jacob, Dr. Wilson, Fox, and Charles Summers, her old teacher,, who was born in a village in the county. She has also painted a number of portraits, written a book on "How to Understand Sculpture," and other works, published a volume of poems, and contributed the coloured illustrations to a work of travel by Dr. Kelman. —Literature and Sculpture.— An interesting story could be written about the' literary and artistic families con nected with Australia, and- in mentioning another, woman sculptor it will be appro priate to refer to the Mason family; which, although now in London, formerly occu pied a homestead at Port Arthur, which lies in a remote corner of Tasmania. Mr. Mdson is remembered as the, first to intro- duce Shropshire sheep in the island State, and his wife, who, w&s Miss Howitt, was a great-granddaughter of Samuel Howitt, the animal, painter, and etcher, and a rela- tive of William Howitt. the wset. In .their, cultured 'home, in the bush it was natural enongh that one daughter should turn to art and another to literature. Miss G. Heather Mason had no one to teach her sculpture, so she had to model in the round and in relief in her own way, and when a work was completed in day she had it baked in a pottery which an old Stafford shire potter had built in the neighbour- hood, and in this simple, way she got as far, as she could. A few years ago she came to London, and after studying at the Slade School, followed the ? example of others by showing at the Academy and the New Salon. —A Specialist in Medals.— She is- one of the few in England who have made a special study of medals. Among a number she has modelled, it will be sufficient to mention the award medal for. the Women's Exhibition, Earl's Court, 1900, and the medal to commemo rate the tour of the Duke and Duchess of York through Australasia. Her silver greyhound desijm for the King's Messenger badge for the last reign was selected out of a number by King Edward himself. An article on medals, which the artist wrote for the Reading University College Review (March, 1913), has all the charm of a sprightly essay. She thus describes the ecstacy of the artist when success crowns the castine of a medal:— 'If safely carried through, the artist then enjoys some of his most blissful moments, as watching the slow drymi? of his mould before the studio fire7, the flickering- blaze awakens' the dead white of the plaster to a palpitating life when the face, flushed and softlv rounded, takes on a breathing vitality, which seems for a moment to transmute his work into something ' very near creation, and he realizes . that the spirit which he has breathed into it is born.' » —Sculpture— and Dairying! It might be. added, that Miss Mason learnt the art of making butter and cheese at. the Tasmanian homestead, and alontj with sculpture she has pursued the dairy ing scjence.' Moat of her time is taken up as' Lecturer in Bacteriology at the Reading University. College. The same woman who has written so graphically on medals. has contributed a' learned- article on ? the 'Mioroflora . of, Stilton ' Cheese.' Her sister.' Veronica. Mason,''. has' 'written a volume of Australian verse which EUdn Matthews'has published under the title 'I Heard a Child Singing.' It contains 'The Wattle Song/' -which has been set to music, and was sung at the celebrations held in London on Australia Day. Australia is a Peter. Pan country; it; is' still in its ex pectant youth. Art' is only of recent growth, and one of the pleasures of living in anew country. is to wonder where the next man or woman of- talent, win crop up. It is asked why so many go abroad instead of remaining in their own beautiful country. The. answer is,) that at present the field » limited in young colonies like Australia and 'unlimited in an old land like Europe. A clever. young artist may 'ar- rive' in a year or two in Austrah'a; it is possible for one 1 to bb paragraphed and caricatured before be has attained his ma jority, but it does. not necessarily follow that there .will be an immediate demand for his -work. In Europe it takes a long time fo^et up, but once up, the battle is practically over. Still there seems to be a brwht . future .for art ,in Australia, . and one is ready, to agree with Mackennal, our leading sculptor, that 'the'mysiery of the bush, .its vast, silences, and its' vast dis tances, will some day inspire a great art effort.' . ' .-''.' Mr. Hflbrpw— 'Don't yon find the stone age interesting?' , Mrs. Lobrow- 'Yes, in deed! Williers just that age now; but it's awfully hard on the windows!'