Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Women of Art

During the course of our two day Canberra stay I did catch up with a few 'old friends'.
Nora Heysen, Margaret Preston, Stella Bowen and Grace Crowley

These are all Australian artists of a similar generation who come from a time that mostly regarded women painters as hobbyists.

There's something about their clear lines, their use of colour and their choice of subject that I deeply admire

I was pleased to see their work at most of the places we visited; The National Gallery of Australia; The National Portrait Gallery at Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial Museum.

Many of these women went overseas to study and have their work recognized in its own right. Some, such as Stella Bowen and Nora Heysen, became war artists.

I wanted to do something for the war effort and I offered my services for making sandwiches down at Rushcutters Bay for the navy. I did that for a while but they complained that I put too much butter and filling on the sandwiches and I was dismissed from that. From an interview with Nora Heysen, 25 August 1994

Heysen was frustrated by the restriction of only painting 'safe' studio portraits of the commanding officers of the women's auxiliary services. Despite this she still produced some fine works such as this one of Transport Driver Florence Miles.

I came upon the painting in a small corridor overshadowed by a large Mosquito plane but it was this small canvas that caught my eye. In a building dominated by large mechanical war machines and huge monuments it brings in a human perspective.

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