Woman artists. Splendid exhibition. Great Variety of work.

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Woman artists. Splendid exhibition. Great Variety of work.


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Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney) 18 April 1831 - ongoing


12 July 1934, p.3, col.6

Publication date

12 July 1934


Exhibition review



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It was known that, there were many clever women painters in Sydney, yet the richness of interest in the exhibition of their work which the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir Philip Street) is to open this afternoon comes as a surprise. This is the first time that a determined attempt has been made to assemble the work of all the finest women artists, no matter what art body they belong to.

The selection committee is to be congratulated on its breadth of view in admitting representative pictures by all schools of expression. The less conventional work, which has been hung in a separate block along the wall farthest from the entrance, has a character of its own and a certain freshness of outlook. It gives liveliness and diversity to the general body of art.

Another interesting feature of the exhibition is the contrast it offers between Sydney art and that of painters domiciled in Victoria and Queensland. At the Society of Women Painters' show earlier in the year, there was a panel from Melbourne which created a favourable impression. The Victorian room in the present exhibition seems dull. Yet the committee claims that it went to some trouble in obtaining a representative list of artists; and it allowed each artist to make her own choice. Among the oils from Melbourne, only those of Isabel Tweddle, Hilda Rix Nicholas, and Dora Wilson stand out of the conventional, highly sentimental routine. Among the water-colours, the work of E.W. Syme ("The Briquette Factory," with its charming vivacity of formalised lines); of M. Barrett ("Magnolias," simple and in fine taste); and of Margaret Pestell ("Market Day," clear, suave, and mellow) is distinctly interesting and attractive.

Of the New South Wales artists, Maud Sherwood, as always, is one of the most vital. "Somewhere in France" is a superb example, with its fiery brilliance of colour and its masterly strength and ease of expression. Gladys Owen is another watercolourist represented by splendid work in a more subdued key. "Mount Ranken, Bathurst" illustrates her ability, by means of delicate gradation, to make much of a simple subject: and "Ring-barked Trees, Kurrajong" has a decorative quality sensitively reminiscent of the Japanese.

Mary Edwards presents paintings in two styles - one, the ethereal pale blue and pale green by which she is best known; the other (and the more uniformly successful), the splendidly vigorous harmonies in oil which she chooses for the representation of Javanese women. The portraits by Florence Rodway are outstanding in their simplicity and dignity. The oils of V.A. Quaife are in fastidious taste as regards colour values; and the little landscapes by Juanita Job select and portray essentials. Myra Cocks has two delightful watercolour drawings; and Laura Booth attains a strikingly clear-cut effect in "St. Stephen's Spire." Other charming water colourists are Phyllis Shillito whose "Swanston-street, Melbourne" picks out spots of colour in a crowd with much gaiety; Wanda Elliott Smith, who, in the "Interior, St. Andrew's Cathedral," draws strongly and soundlv and colours with admirable discretion; Dora Jarret, who indulges a less restrained style, Jean Bellette, and Alice Norton. Among the "modernists," Thea Proctor's "Gladioli" is characteristic and appealing.

In the oil section, besides those mentioned, artists of distinctly meritorious achievement include J. Bruce, Florence Walton Smith, Florence Peisner, Myrtle Innes, Constance Moser, Ethel Stephens (on account of "Heavenly Blue Convolvulus"), Edith Cusack, and E.A. Waddell.

In the "advanced" panel. Alison Rehfisch's work exerts its usual finely-proportioned, well balanced charm. Margaret Preston's painting is interesting, because it seems to have been influenced strongly by the school of Picasso. Jean Ramsay's "Fountain and Ship" has a naive gaiety that is highly acceptable. There is interesting, highly intellectualised work by Dorrit Black, Gladys Gibbons, and Treanla Smith; and painting of a fiercer, more disturbing sort by Helen Stewart, Isabel Huntley, Maud Haydon, and Grace Cossington Smith.

A South Australian section contains good work by Leila McNamara and Gwen Barringer, and a Queensland section by Jeannette Sheldon. Reverting to Sydney art, there is an excellent pencil drawing ("Girl Resting") by Thea Proctor. There are good drawings by Eirene Mort, Ethleen Palmer's "Malay Squirrels" is a charming lino-cut in the manner of Bresdern-Roth: and Eleanor Lange's small bronze. "The Heavy Plain." has beautiful grace and suppleness.

[Sydney Morning Herald, 12 July 1934, p.3, col.6.]