An Australian style
Australian painters and sculptors looked towards Britain and, to a lesser extent, France for inspiration and approval. Several leading artists based themselves in these art centres, where they were part of a vibrant expatriate community. Most kept close ties to the Australian art world, mounting exhibitions in their home cities, returning for visits and seeking official Australian Government commissions.
There were many avenues to exhibit works of art in Australia. It was the heyday of art, and arts and crafts, societies in Australia, whose annual exhibitions provided opportunities to show work at a time when there were few commercial galleries. These salons were also eagerly anticipated social events.
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'Watching the Australian Fleet Coming through Sydney Heads' by Ethel Carrick Fox
Watching the Australian Fleet Coming through Sydney Heads, 1913, oil on canvas by Ethel Carrick Fox. Private collection.
The arrival of the first Australian naval fleet in October 1913 provided artist Ethel Carrick Fox with a fine subject. She loved painting crowds and she loved painting Sydney Harbour. She brought both these passions together in a series of paintings depicting the fleet.
When Fox’s paintings were shown in Melbourne, a critic in the Leader remarked: ‘Mrs. Fox shows small concern for its minor trivialities. For her, detail does not exist; she sees only the broad, changing effects which pass before her in the moving crowds of the parks, the gatherings on the beach, and with rapid touches, she sets down her impression by means of disconnected patches of pure colour’.
'The Artist's Mother' by Max Meldrum
The Artist’s Mother, 1913, oil on canvas by Max Meldrum. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Felton Bequest, 1913.
The Melbourne artist Max Meldrum spent the years 1900 to 1912 in France. His sensitive portrait of his mother, painted in Melbourne in 1913, is clearly indebted to portraits by the old masters. After his return to Australia, Meldrum began to teach a theoretical approach to painting, emphasising the importance of the precise recording of tonal values, that remained influential for many decades.
Arts and crafts style
Bowl with lilli-pilli leaf and berry design, 1912, by Elizabeth Söderberg, copper with repoussé decoration. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 1914.
It was with pleasure that one noted the designers had frequently chosen our own Australian flowers, leaves, and berries, which seem so admirably adapted for brass work, woodcarving, stencilling, or embossing leather … Mrs. Soderberg’s brass work always calls for admiration … on [her] brass trays and vases, geebungs, lillipilli, gum leaves, and berries form most effective designs.
Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 1913, p. 8. Read the full article in Trove
Elizabeth Söderberg came to Australia from Denmark in 1906. For the next 16 years her metalwork featured prominently in exhibitions of arts and crafts in Sydney. Söderberg’s preference for Australian motifs was shared with many artists of her day, such as South Australian Gertrude Rushton, whose carved wooden settle, proudly bearing the date ‘1913’, is covered with kookaburras and gum leaves. The Rushton settle is also on show in Glorious Days.