Intrepid Women: Australian women artists in Paris 1900-1950

In the early part of the 20th century, Paris’ reputation as the hub of artistic activity attracted women artists across the globe, who seized the opportunity to further their careers and make use of the freedom to study, exhibit and in some cases receive prizes and accolades. This exhibition showcases the stories and varied output of 30 tenacious female Australian artists, who made the arduous journey to pursue art often relying on meagre funds, but rewarded by the rich cultural and artistic environment of Paris.

Mary Cockburn Mercer, Ballet, c.1939, oil on canvas, 94.7 x 66.3cm. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Gift of Robin Sharwood in honour of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s 100th birthday through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2009

The exhibition comprises paintings, prints and ceramics selected from public galleries and private collections nationally, some from widely recognised artists including Grace Crowley, Anne Dangar, Ada May Plante and Margaret Preston. Whilst some of these women brought their insights and knowledge about modern art back home, a handful remained in France. With the excitement of café life and socialising alongside the freedom to study, exhibit and, at times, rewarded for their efforts, this output reflects their discovery of this world.

As the title ‘Intrepid Women’ suggests, the proximity of Australia to Paris and the funds needed for this journey meant that this move was hardly for half-hearted artists and it is this fact alone that makes this exhibition worth viewing. From salons, galleries and studios to museums and academies, the strength and determination of female artists, who chose to immerse themselves in this scene, lives on through their work.

Bessie Davidson, La robe jaune, 1931, oil on canvas, 38 x 46cm. Private Collection, Sydney

Artists include: Christina Asquith Baker, Dorrit Black, Stella Bowen, Ethel Carrick, Evelyn Chapman, Mary Cockburn Mercer, Grace Crowley, Janet Cumbrae Stewart, Anne Dangar, Bessie Davidson, Moya Dyring, Madge Freeman, Bessie Gibson, Vida Lahey, Agnes Goodsir, Anne Alison Greene, Dora Meeson, Alice Muskett, Kathleen O’Connor, Margaret Olley, Ada May Plante, Margaret Preston, Betty Quelhurst, Isobel Rae, Gladys Reynell, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Constance Stokes, Eveline Syme, Jessie Traill and Marie Tuck.

S.H. Ervin Gallery
Until 11 March, 2018