Australian Fine Artist

Archive for August, 2015

Orientalism and the Culture of “Other”

The premise of this essay is to review Orientalism and the concept of ‘other’ by examining three specific paintings completed during the 19th century, in order to distinguish political from artistic, or commercial, intent. In order to discuss the subject, the definition of Orientalism needs to be considered; according to the Oxford Dictionary the broad definition of Orientalism is a method of representing Asian cultures and peoples in a stereotypical manner distorted by colonial attitudes and interpretation (Orientalism 2015). Edward Said describes Orientalism as a vision of reality distorted by the difference between the familiar (the West) and the ‘other’ (the unfamiliar East) (Said 1978). The concept of ‘other’ created a division between the West, which was perceived as developed and civilized, in contrast to the East, which was seen as as inferior or degraded (Shahinaj 2015). Orientalism, colonialism, the spread of ‘empire’, and the concept of ‘other’, are contemporaneous with the European Age of Enlightenment, scientific and archaeological discoveries, spread of literature, and the Grand Tour (Said 1978). This essay by analysing works by Ingres (1780-1867), Gérome (1824-1904), and Delacroix (1798-1863), in regard to their representation of the East regarding women in particular will demonstrate their Eurocentric depiction of ‘other’, and Orientalism. Although aesthetically attractive, these paintings reflected an attitude of ‘other’ by altering the subjects to create a distorted or Euro centrically derived reality that misrepresented the East as an amoral or undeveloped culture.


Macedon Ranges Art Trail


Rural Cafe & Gallery

For lovers of art and day trips, I have been introduced to the Macedon Ranges Art Trail. Similar to the Peninsula Art Trail near me, the trail consists of a group of artists and venues that join up to create a presence for visitors to the area.

Following the art trails on open days, can be especially rewarding if you love looking at a variety of work by gifted artists.

This is an opportunity to look at and buy Australian art from living practising artists. Rather than buying prints or reproductions, why not think about original art that supports the lives and business of contemporary Australian artists?

At Rural Cafe & Gallery, there is an opportunity to watch an artist working on site whilst having an afternoon tea break. There are also works on display and available for purchasing in the gallery area.

During the year there are many activities for visitors, and these are listed on the back page the brochure. Each venue is listed and the inside of the brochure has information about each one. Too easy!

Brochures should be available from local info centres near you, if not, please visit their web site or email for information. The brochure is also available to download from

Rural Cafe & Gallery is at:
2117 Heathcote-Redesdale Road, Redesdale Victoria
Open: Daily 8am-6pm
Phone: 03 5425 3117
Facebook Page: The House Gallery Redesdale

Advanced Tonal Studies

Second in the Series of Monthly Workshops with David Chen

Landscapes Using Tonal Methods

For these workshops with David I will be talking about how I am learning to apply tonal methods when painting landscapes.

To recap on the previous session, remember your composition when painting and where you will paint. Your kit to paint plein air should have only what you really need. Remember to take something to get out of the weather so that you don’t get sun burnt or caught in the rain. It is also important to remember the size of the work you will be doing. Catching light before it changes is important so try not to go too big. A small oil sketch and notes can be enough to create a finished larger painting in the studio.

Also remember the different formulas for composition, such as the Golden Rule of thirds, or others that you can apply for a dramatic painting. Just because it looks one way in real life, doesn’t mean that you can’t move things around to create a better composition. what you are looking at is your inspiration, if you want a copy, take a camera. By thawed, taking your camera isn’t a bad idea if you think you will run out of time. Like your sketches and notes, the photos will add to your memory as an aid to completing a finished work.


Clarice Beckett: Home is Where the Art is.

In 1970 thousands of neglected paintings by artist Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) were rediscovered in a farm shed in rural Victoria. What circumstances led to a significant Melbourne artist of the early 20th century being largely forgotten for over thirty years? To begin, during Beckett’s lifetime, Australia suffered the economic and social effects of the Boer War, WW1 and the Great Depression. In 1903 women gained the right to vote, were represented more in the workforce, but were often paid half a man’s wage. The rising independence of women was threatening to many men, who were comfortable with established conservative attitudes regarding gender roles. Unemployment after WW1 was up to 29%, and Australia was dealing with loss of a large proportion of the male population, caring for the returned wounded, and supporting families of those killed in action (Anon 2014). Additionally the arts were male dominated, making exhibition, promotion, and sales difficult for women artists experimenting with new movements like Modernism from Europe (Dever et al. 1994). Books, articles, or journals mentioning women artists reflect how few were acknowledged (Garrish-Nunn 2003-2004). Male art critics who wrote about women’s art, were often scathing in their reviews and Clarice Beckett was no exception (Jordan 1993). Her training and association with Max Meldrum (1875-1955), exemplified by the adoption of his tonal methods, plus intrusive expectations from her family, are integral to any discussion of Beckett’s body of work.

Clarice Beckett was born in Casterton, Victoria, into a middle class family that enjoyed some social status. She initially fulfilled social expectations by reading and learning drawing, partially from her mother who was an amateur painter (Hollinrake 1979). She had little positive input from her father (McGuire, 2012). Beckett attended boarding college in Ballarat, and during her stay became ill prompting her mother and sister to move and care for her. Inspiring visitors to the home in Ballarat were artists Ola Cohn (1892-1964) and Walter Withers (1854-1915) (Hollinrake 1999). Beckett completed her general education at Melbourne Girls’ Grammar Merton Hall in 1904, followed by private drawing lessons in Ballarat. From 1914 to 1916 she attended the National Gallery School in Melbourne before training with Max Meldrum in 1917. Education for young ladies in the middle classes was seen at the time as good preparation for a woman in polite society. Beckett’s rejection of suitors, and persistence with tonal painting in Melbourne, however, became an annoyance for her father, and a target for the press and critics who were still biased against women artists. Parochial attitudes towards new movements that contradicted those of the established art institutions, and the role of women, were still firmly embedded in middle class Australia.

In 1919, Beckett’s parents moved to Beaumaris, creating the biggest hindrance to her art career. Now retired, and without servants or her sister who had married and moved away, Beckett’s ailing parents imposed family responsibilities on her. As their unmarried daughter she was made responsible for caring for them. Her time for art studies, practice, and exhibiting was now severely limited especially considering her father’s intolerant attitude (Peers 2000). To cope with her limited circumstances, Beckett developed a cart which allowed her to take materials with her to paint on site, but in the house her father restricted her to painting to the kitchen table saying that it was all she required (Lock-Weir 2008). The days when she was able to go on long day trips or attend camps to paint as she did with Meldrum were now over (Hollinrake, 1995). Any trips away to paint had to be carefully scheduled around the demands of her parents. Her middle class status both protected her from the worst of post WW1 social problems, whilst preventing her from developing an independent arts career.

Although Beckett’s paintings were initially influenced by her training in the National Gallery School in Melbourne by Impressionist Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917), substantial influence came later via Max Meldrum’s tonal methods of painting (Mendelsohn 1967). Meldrum was often supportive of her work, advising her well after she began experimenting with ideas that became the foundation of her unique style (McGrath 1986). Beckett exhibited paintings in the yearly exhibitions of the Meldrum group in Melbourne in 1919, 1920 and 1921, and held her first solo exhibition in 1923 in the Antheneum Gallery in Melbourne. She went on to hold them yearly until 1932, along with annual events at the Twenty Melbourne Painter’s Group 1923-1935 (Perry 1996). She joined the Melbourne Society of Women Painters in 1926 and exhibited with them until the early 1930s. As a former student of Meldrum, Beckett was often a target for cruel and unwarranted attacks by art critics who persisted in negative appraisals of her soft atmospheric application of his tonal methods. In the catalogue for the 6th Annual Exhibition of the Twenty Melbourne Painters, Beckett wrote of her objectives in art. It reflects her goals better than the opinions of male critics.

To give a sincere and truthful representation of a portion of the beauty of Nature and to show the charm of light and shade, which I try to set forth in correct tones so as to give as nearly as possible an exact illusion of reality.” Clarice Beckett. (Perry 1996, 78-79)

Beckett related that she had a clear goal based on the understanding and practical application of tonal methods and observational skills. Examination of a selection of her paintings testifies to her dedication, and willingness to endure limited time, weather, and objurgating by male art critics, journalists, and gallery directors, to produce work indicative of her interpretation of Meldrum’s methods of tonal painting in the development of her unique style.

Portrait Study Hilda 1918

The Arrtist's Wife-Max Meldrum-1916

Figure 1. Portrait Study Hilda 1918       Figure 1A. TheArtist’s Wife
Max Meldrum 1916

Carnations 1923


Figure 2. Carnations. 1923                   Figure 2A. Flowerpiece. Max Meldrum 1925

wet evening 1927

Roadway meldrum-1940Figure 3. Wet Evening. 1927                   Figure 3A. Roadway. Max Meldrum 1940

Boatshed Beaumaris 1928

716288 - Letter of Offer.PDF

Figure 4. Boatshed Beaumaris. 1928     Figure 4A. Pont Neuf. Max Meldrum 1929

The Red Sunshade 1932

                  Figure 5. The Red Sunshade. 1932

There is very little written about paintings by Clarice Beckett compared to male colleagues and competitors. The few articles by critics were often negative, ridiculing Beckett’s use of Meldrum’s tonal painting techniques (Christian 1999). More favourable comments are from recent retrospective exhibitions of her work written in 1957 and 1971. To indicate her process in painting, examples of works by Meldrum have been placed above to allow comparisons. The softer tonal and atmospheric effects in Beckett’s work, in contrast to the sharper and broader range of values in Meldrum’s paintings, reveal her departure from directly copying his methods. Beckett, who was painting in the early morning and late evening, uses softer light at each end of the day. In Figure 1, an unusual portrait by Beckett, many of the mid tones are omitted taking away some of the detail and form of the face, most of the figure is bathed in a soft glow of light with a dreamy far away expression as if caught mid thought. Figure 2, in some respects adheres more closely to the principles of modern tonal painting than the Meldrum painting next to it, by giving the impression of viewing the scene through a haze or fog. Figure 3 also shows the atmospheric treatment of early evening and rainy weather with neutral tones and soft edges. The only things pulling attention into the painting are the single red tail light on the car and the reflected light coming from the background on to the road. Figures 4 and 5 show Beckett’s development as she continued to experiment with colour and tone. As with her other works, these are painted for viewing from a few metres away (Anon 1995). The soft treatment of edges and values display Beckett’s departure from established Realism or Impressionism to a Modernist method of tonal painting. Because of her association with Meldrum Beckett was often overlooked or not included as a member of the Modernist movement by critics, and rejected by some artists as non-representational of its goals. Her contribution to Australian art of the early 20th century was largely ignored until recently.

In Framing Clarice Beckett, Drusilla Modjeska (1999) describes Beckett’s method of painting exemplified in the illustrations above, stating that she painted an illusion of her reality. Figures 3 and 4 allow objects to run off sides, the cropped image gaining power by indicating that there is more to be seen outside the frame. Objects and people stand in the distance, positioned as if their attention is caught by something with little to do with the painter. It has been argued that Beckett’s work reflects the isolation she experienced due to her duties as carer to her parents. Paintings like The Red Sunshade portray people disassociated from engagement with the viewer, disappearing from view, or lost in a hazy distance. Her insistence on what she called her ‘exact illusion of reality’ however, may have more to do with composition rather than her frame of mind, just as her organisation of framing and hanging when holding solo exhibitions indicates how she wanted themes to be followed for particular paintings (Modjeska, 2014). The Red Sunshade incorporated the wider use of high key colours and a different topic to her atmospheric scenes like Wet Evening, hinting that she was experimenting and applying new ideas which unfortunately weren’t fully realised due to her early death, the result of being caught in a storm whilst out painting (Allem 2014). In her vigour to capture the atmosphere that became her identifiable style, she had disregarded her own health.

It has been suggested that Beckett made no effort to live at the end, after falling ill with pneumonia, something that should not happen when only forty-seven years of age. This begs the question; did the restrictive nature of her home, inability to expand her arts practice or attract sales, and aspersions by critics contribute? Beckett’s father refused to let artist friends visit, she mostly painted alone, had few opportunities to mix with fellow artists other than when she held or participated in exhibitions, was often attacked by art critics in the press, and either due to the economy, being a female artist, or her tonal methods of painting, sold very few works in her lifetime. The culmination of conditions in Australia during the 1920s and 1930s, added to her home life and association with Max Meldrum, led to her work being largely forgotten until she was rediscovered over thirty years after her death. Beckett was described in 1971 as a remarkable Modernist, pure and unrivalled. William Dargie said in 1971 that her work was trivialized in Melbourne during her lifetime, and had she lived in France instead of Melbourne, she would have been far better appreciated.

Clarice Beckett’s life is an example of the difficulties women artists have faced during trying social, political, and financial times. The art word in Australia during her lifetime was parochial, and biased against women painters as well as Meldrum’s students, which left Beckett un-mentioned in much of the formal recording of art history of the time. The fact that she continued to paint despite her father’s intolerant treatment of her career, her few supportive outlets and lack of commercial success is a credit to her. Without a supportive infrastructure, as Beckett was, many women would be torn between family responsibilities and working towards being a competitive artist on an equal footing with men. Beckett had the single-mindedness to continue to paint rather than marry and have children, but without financial independence was never able to travel overseas to train as several of her peers did. The strict constraints from her father closed off her ability to freely network or promote her work, or create a studio space suitable for a professional arts practice, further inhibiting her potential. The impact of wars and the depression were contributing reasons for lack of sales, as were the negative reviews in the press, but not the main conducive factors to her largely being forgotten for three decades. Apart from her association with Max Meldrum, Clarice Beckett’s most significant barrier came from the one person who should have been her most supportive champion, underpinned by persistent social expectations of the role of women of the time.

Reference List:

Allem , Lorena. 2014. Between sea and sky: a portrait of Clarice Beckett.
Accessed July 21, 2015.

Anon. 1995. In a Certain Light/Clarice Beckett and Olive Cotton. Paddington, NSW. Ivan Dougherty Gallery.

Anon. 2014. Effects of WWI lingered long in Australia. AAP.
Accessed July 24, 2015.

Christian, John. 1999. Clarice Beckett Retrospective: The subtle work of a much-neglected Australian artist. International Committee of the Fourth International. World Socialist Website.
Accessed July 17, 2015.

Dever, Maryanne, et al. 1994. Wallflowers and Witches. Queensland. University of Queensland.

Hollinrake, Rosalind. 1979. Clarice Beckett, the Artist and Her Circle. Melbourne. MacMillan.

Hollinrake, Rosalind. 1995. Clarice Beckett. Design & Art Australia Online.
Accessed July 17, 2015.

Hollinrake, Rosalind. 1999. Clarice Beckett Politically Incorrect: Exhibition Catalogue. Ian Potter Museum of Art. Melbourne. The University of Melbourne.

Jordan, C. 1993. Designing Women: Modernism in Art and Australia and The Home 3 (2): 200-207.
Accessed July 15, 2015.

Lock-Weir, Tracey. 2008. Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915-1950. Adelaide, SA. Art Gallery of South Australia.

McGrath, Joyce and Bernard Smith. 1986. Meldrum, Duncan Max (1875-1955). Australian Dictionary of Biography 10. National Centre of Biography. Australian National University.
Accessed July 15, 2015.

McGuire, Peg. 2012. The Silver Thread, Clarice Beckett and Her Brother. Victorian Historical Journal. 83 (2): 276-285.
Accessed July 9, 2015.;dn=201212757;res=IELAPA.

Mendelsohn, Oscar. 1967. Remembrance of Things Past: 14 Max Meldrum and the Science of Appearances. Meaning Quarterly 26 (2): 204-210.
Accessed July 15, 2015.;dn=572746938338706;res=IELLCC.

Modjeska, Drusilla. 2014. Clarice Beckett. Melbourne. Bambra Press.

Modjeska, Drusilla. 1999. Framing Clarice Beckett.
Accessed July 8, 2015.

Peers, Juliet. 2000. Unchain My Art. Artlink 20 (4): 12-15.
Accessed July 9, 2015.;dn=200106290;res=IELAPA.

Perry, Peter. W. 1996. Max Meldrum & Associates: Their Art. Lives and Influences. Castlemaine, Victoria. Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum.


Adams, Jude. 2001. Modern Australian Women: Paintings and Prints 1925-1945 and in Context: Australian Women Modernists.
Accessed July 27, 2015.

Anon. 2002. Clarice Beckett 1187-1935. Potts Point, New South Wales. Niagra Galleries.

Anon. 2000. Clarice Beckett 1187-1935. Richmond, Victoria. Niagra Galleries.

Creating Australia: 200 Years of Art 1788-1988”. 1989. Daniel Thomas (Ed). South Australia. Art Gallery of South Australia.

Cruthers, John. 2012. Look. Look Again. Cruther’s Collection of Women’s Art. Western Australia. The University of Western Australia.

Garrish-Nunn, Pamela. 2003-2004. Reviewed Works: Modern Australian Women: Paintings and Prints 1925-1945 by Jane Hylton; Joy Hester and Friends by Deborah Hart; Rhona Haszard by Joanne Drayton. Woman’s Art Journal 24 (2): 44-45.
Accessed July 22, 2015.

Genoni, Paul. 2006. ‘Art is the Windowpane’: Novels of Australian Women and Modernism in Inter-war Europe. Researchgate.
Accessed July 27, 2015.’Art_is_the_Windowpane’_Novels_of_Australian_Women_and_Modernism_in_Inter-war_Europe/links/54c63c2f0cf2911c7a57ae4b.pdf.

Hollinrake, Rosalind. 1999. Clarice Beckett: The Artist and Her Circle. Melbourne. McMillan Company of Australia.

Johnson, Lyn. 2005. Stronger Lessons. Master’s Essay. Melbourne. University of Melbourne.

McGuire, M.A. 1986. ‘Life and your Imagining’ The Art of Clarice Beckett. Australian Journal of Art. 5 (1): 90-103.
Accessed July 21, 2015.
doi: 10.1080/03146464.1986.11432882.

Ottley, Dianne. 2007. Grace Crowley’s Contribution to Australian Modernism and Geometric Abstraction. Master’s Essay. University of Sydney.
Accessed July 27, 2015.

Image References:

Figure 1. Clarice Beckett. Portrait Study Hilda. 1918. Oil on Board, Size Unknown. Cleveland Museum of Art, city/state. Reproduced from (accessed July 21, 2015).

Figure 1A. Max Meldrum. The Artist’s Wife. 1916. Oil on Canvas on Cardboard. Size 60.8 x50.5cm. Reproduced from

Figure 2. Clarice Beckett, Carnations, 1923. Oil on Board, 43.5x29cm. Ruth Prowse Collection, Victoria. Reproduced from Drusilla Modjeska, 2014. Clarice Beckett. Melbourne: Niagra Galleries.

Figure 2A. Max Meldrum. Flowerpiece. 1925. Oil on Canvas on Plywood. 40.7x31cm. Reproduced from (accessed July 27, 2015).

Figure 3. Clarice Beckett, Wet Evening, 1927. Oil on Cardboard, 25.7×30.4cm. Castelmaine Art Gallery, Victoria. Reproduced from Perry, John and Peter Perry, 2013. Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum: History & Collections. Castlemaine: Castlemaine Art Gallery.

Figure 3A. Max Meldrum. Roadway. 1940. 32×39.5cm. Oil on Board. Reproduced from (accessed July 27, 2015).

Figure 4. Clarice Beckett, Boatshed, Beaumaris, 1928. Oil on Cardboard, 30.5x36cm. Castelmaine Art Gallery, Victoria. Reproduced from Perry, John and Peter Perry, 2013. Castelmaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum: History & Collections. Castlemaine: Castlemaine Art Gallery.

Figure 4A. Max Meldrum. Pont Neuf. 1929. Oil on Canvas Board. 32.8×40.8cm. Reproduced from (accessed July 27, 2015).

Figure 5. Clarice Beckett, The Red Sunshade, 1932. Oil on Board, 14.2x22cm. Private Collection. Reproduced from Alexander, Jane, 2014. Part Two: Sea of Dreams Port Phillip Bay 1915-2013. Mornington: Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.

Jane Sutherland (1853-1928): Scottish Flower Amongst Tall Poppies of Australian Impressionism

Have you ever asked why, amid famous Australian Impressionists’ names such as Streeton or McCubbin, there are few if any women’s names mentioned? Was the imposed expectation of being wives, mothers and homemakers, preventative to pursuing a career in the arts (Ambrus et al, 1992)? The development of Australian art, via understanding of its landscape, and introduction of Impressionist painting techniques from Europe, belonged not only to male artists. Women, though confined by social expectations, were active in the arts and society. This essay will discuss Jane Sutherland’s career in this apparently male-centric atmosphere of the 1880s and 1890s. Paintings from her body of work will briefly be examined, reflecting techniques; restrictions on her production of paintings, and arts practice, demonstrating her place in the development of art in Australia.

Obstruction Box Hill

Figure 1. The Painting Obstruction, Box Hill c. 1887 (Ramsay and Morrison 2006, 55).

Jane Sutherland grew up in a stimulating scientific and academic home atmosphere, but university was not open to women artists in Melbourne, until the late 19th century (Nugent, 2002). Exclusive conditions meant that Jane, like other women artists, mostly sought training from art guilds and local artists. This allowed them to avoid the unwelcome environment of male students and staff in universities (McCarthy, 2011). Jane learnt painting at the National Gallery School of Art and Design under the guidance of artists Eugene von Guerard, and Frederick McCubbin, who provided extra activities for students beyond the curriculum of the school (Lindsay, 2015). She was also influenced by the work of Scottish artists Robert Herdman and Peter Graham in the NGV.

Jane’s dedication to her arts education is evident in works such as Figure 1 (above). Clear tonal values and ability to capture the Australian landscape, reflect McCubbin’s methods in A Summer Morning Tiff 1886 (Gleeson, 1971), by use of colour and strong composition. Daily activities, and children exploring the countryside, like the little girl in this work, became a familiar theme in many of her paintings (Ramsay and Morrison, 2006). Rather than passive or victims in the landscape, exemplified in Frederick McCubbin’s Lost 1886 or On the Wallaby Track 1896, Jane portrayed her subjects interacting with or working in it, reflecting confidence and independence. Contemporary artist Louise Hearman applied a similar theme in her painting Untitled 659 1998.

Jane was determined to break through social boundaries inflicted on women in society by undertaking activities that were considered for men only. One of her achievements was becoming the only female to chair the meetings at the previously male dominated Buonoroti Club (Mead, 2011). Jane became active in movements to gain women the vote, and for women artists to be recognised as professionals (Public Record, 2013). She campaigned for women to have similar access to men for study, including life-drawing classes (Ambrus, 1992). Jane was also a member of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (Lyndsay, 2007), which took her into the landscape for research, developing observational skills demonstrated in her paintings. She actively promoted women entering such traditionally male activities.

Numb Fingers working while the eye of morn-

Figure 2. The Painting Numb Fingers Working While the Eye of Morn is yet Bedimmed with Tears c. 1888 (Lindsay 2007, 235).

Jane’s paintings reflect her mastery of Impressionists’ methods of painting and colour theory. Her willingness to venture into the Australian landscape is reflected in her understanding of light and colour (Lindsay, 2007). The late 1880s to the 1890s saw her at her peak producing works exemplified in Figure 2 (above). The view of a woman picking bracken at sunrise shows active participation of women in menial labour (Nugent, 2002). The limited palette and atmospheric treatment help unite the painting by use of a dominant colour to tone down the values throughout the scene. The result is a painting where all colours relate to each other and none look out of place. This demonstrates Jane’s mastering of Academic Training techniques, making it equal in quality to peers Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts.

To the exclusion of women artists, the male-centric network operating in Melbourne was centred on gathering in clubs and other venues to network. Often including drinking, smoking and prostitutes, artists invited wealthy and influential collectors in hopes of sales, which left wives and female artists like Jane out, as these were considered an improper atmosphere (Astbury, 1987). Jane was also restricted when working at the plein air painting camps, where she packed up gear each day to complete paintings in her studios from sketches that were more transportable (Lindsay, 2015). She would have been significantly disadvantaged in these circumstances, by her inability to network with collectors, buyers and fellow artists to the same degree as the men.

Society thought it unsuitable for middle class women to pursue an arts career that included travel, or employment in professions, until well into the 20th century. During the 1890s, male artists left for Europe and the UK, often financially supported by wives who had a private income, or took on menial jobs (McKenzie, 2000). Other male artists like Streeton worked as clerks, or in the case of Conder, as illustrators for books and newspapers to raise funds. Unable to travel overseas or work in perceived male professions, Jane Sutherland built an arts practice, teaching in her studios in Collins and Swanston Streets, close to E. Philips Fox and Tom Roberts’ studios, and the thriving arts market (Ambrus, et al. 1992). Contrary to what society deemed suitable, she was determined to build a career as a professional artist and art teacher.

first green after the drought 1892

Figure 3. The Painting First Green After the Drought c. 1892 (Lindsay 2007, 234).

In Figure 3, Jane Sutherland demonstrates influences from French Impressionism, of which she quickly took advantage. Her use of yellows and greens are similar to Streeton’s landscape Near Heidelberg 1890 (Lane, 1999). Jane’s similar works are: On the Last Tramp 1888, To The Dandenong 1894, Far-a-Field 1896, The Harvest Field 1897 and A Midsummer Day. The colours and atmosphere reflect her understanding of composition of rural scenes typical of Impressionists painters. Colleague Clara Southern, who shared studio space, demonstrated similar techniques in her landscapes.

the mushroom gatherers

Figure 4. The Painting The Mushroom Gatherers c. 1895 (Lindsay 2007, 236).

During the 1890s Jane incorporated bolder use of colour. She introduced vivid blues, violets and earth pigments, with palette knife application for texture (Lindsay, 2007). Her later works such as A Cabbage Garden 1896 and The Mushroom Gatherers (above) reflect Millet’s influence on E. Phillips Fox, which she added to her repertoire (Manning, 2010). The female workers are reflective of Millet’s subjects, which portray rural workers labouring in the fields. Rather than being depicted as small, and at the mercy of the harsh Australian landscape, these women are actively working within it, central and dominant in the composition.

field naturalists-1896

Figure 5. The Painting Field Naturalists c. 1896 (Lindsay 2007, 224).

Jane exhibited at Federal exhibitions in 1889 and 1893 at the South Australian Society of Arts. She showed regularly at the Victorian Academy of Arts, Australian Artists’ Association, and Victorian Artists’ Society during the 1880s and 1890s (Lindsay, 2015). Her painting, Field Naturalists (above), which makes use of colour that accurately reflects the Australian landscape, is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Although exhibiting skills comparable to male artists like McCubbin or Streeton, works like this sold for significantly less. Jane was not shown in any major collection until 1962, and again in 1972 (Ambrus, 1992). This is in disparity to the recognition of male peers, evidenced by the numbers of works purchased and exhibited by major galleries, written about, and discussed in schools and universities (Good, 2001). Her work was perceived by critics as feminine, or amateur, rather than judged on its merit.

Jane Sutherland never became a totally self-supporting artist and was limited to some teaching, and smaller paintings, after suffering a stroke in 1904. Her career ended in 1911, after the death of her brother (Lindsay, 2015). Jane died at home in 1928, and was buried in the Box Hill cemetery. Although she worked diligently during her life, she remained financially dependant on her successful middle-class family, unable to leave an influential legacy similar to her male colleagues of the Heidelberg School, for later artists.

Australian art has been male dominated for over two hundred years, overlooking artists such as Jane Sutherland, who worked with and learnt from artists such as McCubbin and Streeton, whilst creating her own unique body of work. Paintings reflecting mastery of the techniques of impressionist painting such as use of colour and tone in The Mushrooms Gatherers, Field Naturalists or Obstruction, Box Hill are examples of how social restrictions didn’t prevent her from pursuing her career. It is unfortunate that the imbalance of representation of women artists like Jane Sutherland continues in the 21st century. Major exhibitions and permanent collections in national and regional galleries, by overlooking many female artists; persist in telling only part of the whole story of development of art in Australia.



Ambrus. C., et al. 1992. Australian Impressionism. A Gender Perspective.
Accessed June 8.

Astbury, Leigh. 1987. “Cash Buyers Welcome: Australian Artists and Bohemianism in the 1890s.” Journal of Australian Studies. 11 (20): 23-37.
Accessed June 5.

Anon. 2013. Jane Sutherland. Public Record Office of Victoria.
Accessed June 12.

Gleeson, James. 1971. Australian Painters. Dee Why West. Lansdowne Press.

Good, Janine. 2001. Where are the Great Australian Landscape artists?
Accessed June 25.

Lane, T. 1999. Australian Impressionism.
Accessed June 17.

Lindsay, Frances. 2007. Jane Sutherland. Australian Impressionism. Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria.

Lindsay, Frances. 2015. Sutherland, Jane (1853-1928): Australian Dictionary of
Biography 12. Accessed June 3.

Manning, Jenny. 2010. Jane Sutherland.
Accessed June 17.

McCarthy, Megan. 2011. “We Were at the Beginning of Everything.”
Crossroads 5 (2): 35-44. Accessed June 16.

McKenzie, Andrew. 2000. The Artists: Jane Sutherland.
Accessed June 12.

Mead, Stephen. F. 2011. “The Search for Artistic Professionalism in Melbourne: The Activities of the Buonorotti Club, 1883-1887.” The LaTrobe Journal 88: 136.
Accessed June 4.

Nugent, Dr Maria, Dr Paul Ashton and Professor Paula Hamilton. 2002. Women’s Employment and Professionalism in Australia. ACT. Australian Heritage Commission. Accessed June 4.

Ramsay, Gael. 2006. Ballarat Fine Art Gallery: Highlights from the Collection. Victoria: Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

Taylor, Elena. 2013. Australian Impressionists in France. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria.



Anon. 2015. Jane Sutherland.
Accessed June 15.

Anon. 2005. Jane Sutherland (1853-1928), Australian Landscape Painter.
Accessed June 15.

Anon. 2009. Heidelberg School.
Accessed June 17.

Ellis, David. 2007. A Woman of Little Importance.
Accessed June 15.

Horne, Julia and Geoffrey Sherrington. 2010. “Extending the Educational Franchise: The Social Contract of Australia’s Public Universities, 1850-1890.” Paedagogia Historia: International Journal of the History of Education 46 (1-2): 207-227.
Accessed June 4.

Sanders, Anne and Jim Berryman. 2014. Visual Arts: The Encyclopaedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth Century Australia. Accessed June 4.


Figure 1. Obstruction, Box Hill c. 1887 (Ramsay and Morrison 2006, 55).
Ramsay, Gael and Gordon Morrison. 2006. Ballarat Fine Art Gallery: Highlights from the Collection. Victoria: Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

Figure 2. Numb fingers Working While the Eye of Morn is Yet Bedimmed with Tears c. 1888
Lindsay, Frances. 2007. Jane Sutherland. Australian Impressionism. Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria.

Figure 3. First Green After the Drought c. 1892 (Lindsay 2007, 234).
Lindsay, Frances. 2007. Jane Sutherland. Australian Impressionism. Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria.

Figure 4. The Mushroom Gatherers c. 1895 (Lindsay 2007, 236).
Lindsay, Frances. 2007. Jane Sutherland. Australian Impressionism. Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria.

Figure 5. Field Naturalists c. 1896 (Lindsay 2007, 224).
Lindsay, Frances. 2007. Jane Sutherland. Australian Impressionism. Victoria: National Gallery of Victoria.

Advanced Life Painting-2

Advanced Life Painting Workshop with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter with long brownish blonde hair and a light complexion. We painted all of her in a slightly reclined pose, with strong directional light, pushing into more advanced painting techniques for the human body.

The focus today was to watch out for the positive and negative shapes that her body created against the stool, the drapery and the backdrop. watching what shapes are around the model helps in getting the general body proportions and shape correct. We were also told that we could use our imaginations to change the colours and objects in the background to the model.

Painting a person, whether as a portrait or a nude study, as we did in this workshop, means more than just a photographic copy. The artist needs to apply creativity and their own personality to the work. It is after all an artwork, not just ac copy of real life, which any camera can do.