fig. 1
Constance L. Jenkins

Once celebrated, but since forgotten, a significant painting by Melbourne artist Constance Jenkins was recently displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria. In association with the Gallery’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2011, the painting was conserved, reframed and hung prominently in the early twentieth-century rooms at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne. While some information about Jenkins had previously featured in feminist projects investigating the work of Australian women artists, this information is both general and partial. It seems appropriate, therefore, to revisit Jenkins and her painting Friendly critics, 1907 (fig. 1).1 Information about Jenkins and Friendly critics appeared in Joan Kerr (ed.), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book, 500 Works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955, Art & Australia with Craftsman House, 1995, pp. 18, 379–80; and, in greater detail, in Jillian Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 1’, Women’s Art Register Bulletin, no. 27, May 1998, pp. 5–10.

Constance Lillian Jenkins (1883–1961) (fig. 2) was the first woman to win the National Gallery of Victoria’s prestigious Travelling Scholarship, one of a succession of nine women to take the coveted award between 1908 and 1932.2 The history of the Travelling Scholarship from 1887 to 1932 is covered in detail in Jillian Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship 1887–1932’, MA thesis, Department of Visual Arts, Monash University, Melbourne, 1997. A listing of winning artists and paintings is provided in Appendix 2 of the thesis. The nine women who successively won the scholarship in the period covered were: Constance Jenkins (1908), (Constance) Winifred Honey (1911), Ethel Bishop (1914), Marion Jones (1917), Adelaide Perry (1920), Jean Sutherland (1923), Nancy Guest (1926), Constance Parkin (Stokes) (1929) and Eileen Robertson (1932). It was for the competition of 1908 that Jenkins produced her large painting, Friendly critics, and it was with it that she won the award.3 Friendly critics was presented by Jenkins to the NGV under the terms of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1915. The competition of 1908 marked a watershed in the history of the Travelling Scholarship, not only because it was a woman who took first prize. While student pictures tended to absorb commonly held standards of artistic taste, they also acted as a barometer of change as new influences modified the established view. In particular, the arrival of Bernard Hall as director of the Gallery in 1892 initiated a gradual shift away from the Victorian predilection for sentimental subject pictures towards decorative figure compositions admired by an Edwardian audience, in which hard edges and smooth finish were replaced by the more open brushwork and bravura handling associated with a late-Impressionist style. This transition culminated in the competition of 1908 and found expression in the winning painting by Jenkins.4 See Dwyer, ‘A professional education: Bernard Hall and the National Gallery School 1892–1907’, and ‘Women’s work: the years 1908–1917’, in Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship 1887–1932’, pp. 16–28, 42–54.

The National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship

The National Gallery Travelling Scholarship, first awarded in 1887, was designed to enable the most talented students at the National Gallery’s School of Art to complete their art training abroad. At the same time, under the scholarship’s terms, it accumulated original works by the recipients for the Gallery. In this respect, the scholarship functioned not only as a studentship, but also as a form of public patronage, generous and rare for the time. As expressed by the governor, Sir Henry Loch, the program elevated the reputation of Victoria as ‘the mother of meritorious artists’, reflecting an emergent sense of cultural patriotism associated with Melbourne’s position as a thriving metropolis.5 Sir Henry Loch quoted in The Age, 11 March 1886, p. 5. That the Gallery’s Board of Trustees commissioned a commemorative gold medal for the winner – suitably embellished with a classical winged figure of Victory and the inscription Victoria fronde coronat (Victory/Victoria crowns with fronds of laurel), based on a motto from the classical scholar Horace – indicates the cultural capital invested in the scholarship.6 The medal was designed by Allan Wyon and valued at £15. On the reverse it was decorated with a garland of Victorian native plants and inscribed with the words ‘National Gallery of Victoria-Australia, Travelling Scholarship’, and the recipient’s name (Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, 1886–1934, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, vol. 15, Oct. 1883 – May 1904, p. 183).

The trustees made available the sum of £150 per annum over a three-year term, financed from interest derived from an allocation of £450 set aside from the Gallery’s Art Exhibition Fund and supplemented by trustees funds.7 In 1869, the trustees provided the means for a travelling scholarship by investing £450 from the Art Exhibition Fund, which represented the profits from the highly successful loan exhibition of that year (Edmund Latouche Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria: 1856–1906, Ford and Son, Melbourne, 1906, p. 56). Financing of the scholarship was also noted in 1886 in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, p. 62; and in a report on the initiation of the scholarship published in The Age, 11 March 1886, p. 5. The award was to be made in association with the annual exhibition of work by students of the Gallery School, commencing in 1887 and thereafter triennially, and awarded to the student judged by the trustees to be most worthy. The National Gallery Committee was directed to formulate rules of conduct for the scholarship which would apply to the second competition in 1890.8 For the rules specified in 1890 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria: The National Gallery: rules for the students in the Schools of Drawing and Painting’, Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, pp. 183-5. In addition to the general principles formulated in 1886, it was specified that entrants must have attended the school for no less than three terms and no more than nine terms; the recipient must study in one of the great art centres of Europe, as approved by the trustees; and the recipient must submit to the trustees two copies of master works in the first two years, and an original work in the third. Modifications to the ‘Rules and regulations’ were incorporated in 1898 and 1906, which tended to reflect changes that occurred on a pragmatic basis in the preceding years. These ‘Rules and regulations’ are summarised in Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1887–1932’, Appendix 1. Meanwhile, in the absence of any formal framework, the first scholarship competition in 1887 operated in an ad hoc fashion under the supervision of then director of the Gallery and master of the school George Folingsby. The anecdotal figure study was the preferred medium, reflecting not only the popularity of the genre and aesthetic preferences of the trustees, but also Folingsby’s personal emphasis on the study of the figure as the basis of an art education and the importance of the large-scale narrative composition.9 Alexander Colquhoun, Frederick McCubbin: A Consideration, Australian Art Books, 1919, n. p. John Longstaff won with the painting Breaking the news, 1887 (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth), which, in the tradition of the Victorian subject picture, appealed to popular sentiments in a tableau vivant communicating human pathos, albeit in a distinctively Australian setting. Stylistically the work preserved the tonal palette and smooth surface of an academic tradition.

It was for Bernard Hall, director of the NGV from 1892 to 1935, to progressively shape the rules and regulations that governed the management of the scholarship competition. Although prescriptive in some respects, the rules did not strictly mandate content or style, providing the director with an unexpected opportunity to exercise his influence. In 1893 Hall queried the general nature of the rules, noting the absence of any instruction regarding the subject matter and format of the paintings – meaning the scholarship could be won with a still life, a flower painting or a study of any kind, with only landscape excluded because its execution could not be directly supervised.10 Bernard Hall, letter to the Chief Librarian, 27 July 1893, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, quoted in Leonard B. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861–1968: A Search for a Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1970, pp. 49–50. It was accepted but not stated in the rules that the picture would contain at least two figures situated indoors and in daylight, and be painted on a canvas 48 x 38 inches.11 Cox, p. 50. The topic or theme was set by the director in association with the trustees, although from 1893 the choice increasingly reflected Hall’s influence. Also unstated was the time allowed to complete works in the competition. Candidates were generally given a full year to produce their work; an unpopular provision given the extraordinary investment of time and effort required, and a particular source of frustration for the unsuccessful.

From the outset, Hall made clear his criteria for judging a scholarship painting.12 A summary of Hall’s views is provided in the article, ‘The students’ exhibition at the National Gallery’, The Argus, 14 Dec., 1893, p. 5; see also James S. MacDonald, ‘Bernard Hall and the Victorian National Gallery School’, Art in Australia, Oct.–Nov. 1930, p. 62. The work should demonstrate an expression of individual tastes and feelings, as well as skill and capacity in the selection of a story suitable for translation onto canvas. Technically it should show competence in the arrangement of figures and accessories, line, composition, light and shade, scheme of colour, drawing and modelling of form, and good workmanship. He valued ‘scholarship, or thoroughness, rather than brilliance’ in his students, and ‘performance, as opposed to promise’.13 Bernard Hall, letter to Edward Langton 18 Nov. 1892, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. The italics are Hall’s. This correspondence is quoted in Cox, pp. 48–9. Hall concluded that nature, not nurture, would ultimately distinguish the rare gifted artist.

Of ongoing concern to Hall and his students were the attendance rules that determined eligibility for the competition.14 Gwen Rankin, L. Bernard Hall: The Man the Art World Forgot, New South Publishing, Sydney, in association with the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013, pp. 71–5. According to Rankin, the protracted division between Hall and the trustees on this question rated as ‘the most critical early test of Hall’s administrative abilities’. Several students were debarred from the competition in 1893 by dint of attendance that exceeded the eligibility requirements. The matter was resolved on the morning of judging for the scholarship. A minimum attendance of three, and maximum of nine terms in the School of Painting was initially required for entry.15 Apart from the attendance requirements, there was no further specification as to eligibility. It can be assumed that senior students in the painting class, who fulfilled eligibility requirements and achieved an acceptable standard in painting the figure, were permitted to enter the competition. This provision excluded some deserving students and encouraged others to manipulate the system.16 In 1896, Hugh Ramsay was antagonised by the participation of George Pontin, who was a competitor previously in 1893 and was allowed to enter again in 1896, despite an absence from the school for three years. Ramsay found himself similarly compromised leading up to the competition of 1899. Because his attendance would have exceeded the permitted maximum, he withdrew from formal studies for two terms in 1897 (Patricia Fullerton, Hugh Ramsay: His Life and Work, Hudson, Hawthorn, 1988, pp. 20–2). In 1898, in response to these issues and in preparation for the scholarship competition of 1899, entry was restricted to students who had attended the Painting School for no less than two, and no more than four years; were under twenty-five years of age; and had lived in Australia for the previous seven years.17 For the amendments of 1898 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria’ in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, pp. 367–9. Curiously, entry was extended ‘to any student of a school subsidised by the government of Victoria’ who was able to fulfil the attendance, age and residency conditions. Amendments to the rules introduced in 1898 also included a change in the works to be submitted by the recipient to the trustees, which were to include a study from the nude in the first year, a copy of a well-known work by an Old Master in the second, and an original work in the third. One condition in particular was to have ramifications for future competitors, including Jenkins: a student who had completed a course of study before the year of the scholarship competition was permitted to entrust a picture to the trustees for submission in the following year. If it were not for this new dispensation, Jenkins would have been debarred from competing for the scholarship in 1908.

Constance Jenkins

Jenkins was raised in a family closely associated with the development of metropolitan Melbourne in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Her father, John Shanks Jenkins, was an architect and civil engineer involved in road and bridge building, including the preliminary planning, with John Grainger, of the iconic Princes Bridge. Feisty and ambitious, he served a term as mayor  of Richmond and also nominated as a liberal candidate for the lower house of the Victorian Parliament but, as a professional man standing in Richmond’s strongly working-class seat, was predictably unsuccessful.18‘Men of mark in our midst: John S. Jenkins, Esq.’, Richmond Courier: Supplement, 6 March 1889.

As the youngest child in a large middle-class family, Jenkins’s interest in art was encouraged. In 1901, at seventeen years of age, she enrolled at the National Gallery School as a full-time student in the drawing class under Frederick McCubbin. The visual arts were traditionally accepted as appropriate pursuits for women and, as an extension of this, in the latter stages of the nineteenth century an art education for a woman was socially acceptable. Among Jenkins’s colleagues at the Gallery School were other women who later practised as professional artists, including Janet Cumbrae Stewart, Norah Gurdon, Vida Lahey, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Jessie Traill and Dora Wilson (fig. 3). In 1903, Jenkins entered the Painting School under the tuition of Bernard Hall. With rarely more than thirty members, the Painting School was small relative to the heavily subscribed drawing class, and the majority of men and women in it were committed to an intensive art education and subsequent pursuit of an artistic career.

Jenkins figured consistently in student exhibitions and was a frequent prize winner, commended across a range of skills from painting in monochrome to still life, portraiture and painting the nude.19 National Gallery of Victoria Student Prize Winners Book, collection of bound handwritten sheets, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. Her first public success was at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building in 1907, where she excelled in portraiture and figure studies in both black-and-white and in oils. She took first place for portraiture ahead of the more mature Violet Teague, and shared first place for figure painting with Florence Rodway, who had just returned from four years as a scholarship student at the Royal Academy in London. Jenkins received the silver medal for best exhibit in the oil- painting classes for a work entitled The girl in white, also known as Portrait of Miss Boyne, 1907 (fig. 4), appreciated at the time for its ‘decorative quality’ which was enhanced by its oval-shaped Art Nouveau frame.20 R. Haddon, ‘The First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, Melbourne, 1907’, Art and Architecture, vol. 4, no. 6, Nov.–Dec. 1907, pp. 219–22. She also won the gold medal for best overall in the fine arts section, and was voted the public favourite. It was with some justification that a bright future was predicted for this ‘gifted artist’.21 ibid., p. 221.

The Travelling Scholarship competition of 1908

The competition of 1908 operated largely in accordance with the amended ‘Rules and regulations’ of 1906.22 For the amendments of 1906 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria’ in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, 1886–1934, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, vol. 16 (June 1904 – Dec. 1915), pp. 103-6. Several of the rules formulated in 1906 did not apply officially until the competition of 1911. These included the creation of a points system for the selection of the scholarship winner; and the changed provision that the recipient would now return to the trustees an original work, a figure drawing from life, and a life-sized painting of the nude. The ‘Rules and regulations’ of 1906 remained in place until 1920 although, as previously, some changes continued to be introduced in advance of their formalisation. Entry requirements were modified, with entry restricted to students who had attended the Painting School, or any school subsidised by the government of Victoria, for a minimum eighteen months but no longer than four years.23 Given the supervision requirements of the competition, it is difficult to see how entries for the scholarship could be accepted from students not attending the Gallery School, and there is no evidence that such entries ever occurred. This provision was a modification of one first introduced in 1898. See note 17. The age limit was also modified to admit students under twenty-eight years of age who had been residents of Australia or New Zealand for the previous seven years – an acknowledgement of the number of students from New Zealand attending the Gallery School. The winner was now required to attend an approved school in Europe for only two of the three years of the scholarship term; and to return to the trustees a study from the nude in addition to the traditional requirements of a copy of a well-known painting by an Old Master and an original work. The monetary provision, unchanged since 1887, remained at £150 per annum over the three-year term. As a reflection of the constrained financial times, from 1899 the scholarship medal was cast in bronze instead of gold (fig. 5).

Three particularly significant changes were introduced for the competition of 1908. From 1893, students had responded to a set theme or topic, but this time they were allowed to exercise an individual choice with the trustees’ approval. As before, a figure study was expected with a minimum of two figures, to be executed under the director’s supervision, but the canvas size was now prescribed at 18 feet square. Finally, the time allowed for the painting’s completion was reduced to a single term.

Despite the shorter time frame, the energy and commitment devoted to the completion of scholarship paintings remained extraordinary. Competitors were allocated makeshift studios in the Painting School, and these spaces were regarded as sacrosanct. Esther Paterson, a student in the drawing class in 1907–08, remembered the awe and admiration afforded the scholarship entrants; their studios were out of bounds to ordinary students, who would not dare to intrude.24 Esther Paterson, ‘Gallery days’, The Star, 29 June 1935, p. 35. These studios were nevertheless the focus of keen interest, as furniture, costumes and props were moved in, models came and went, and the paintings progressed in secrecy, with much conjecture about the likely winner. For the competitors, however, it was apprehension rather than excitement that prevailed. As a judge of the competition in 1902, Hugh Ramsay noted the tension of contestants as they awaited the announcement of the winner, and recalled his own anxiety and disappointment as a student three years earlier.25 Fullerton, pp. 111–12.

Persistent as Hall had been to engineer a trouble-free competition, its new attendance regulations proved disastrous for one potential competitor. Charles Wheeler had been the Painting School’s outstanding student for some time. In 1906 and 1907 he dominated the annual student competitions, scooping the pool by taking all four places for painting the nude, and by authoring all accepted entries in the portrait class. Wheeler’s performance positioned him as the outright favourite for the Travelling Scholarship in 1908 but his age, by a narrow margin, cruelly disqualified him. Bitterly disappointed, he elected to terminate his studies.26 ‘Mr Charles Wheeler’, The Age, 23 March 1929. Despite his disappointment, Wheeler recalled Hall’s kindness at the time, assisting him in finding a market for his work. It would be another four years before Wheeler could undertake his desired trip to Europe.

Jenkins and fellow student Janet Cumbrae Stewart were more fortunate. Because both had long studentships in the Painting School, exceeding the stipulated maximum of four years by 1908, they took advantage of the provision allowing students who completed the course in the year before the scholarship competition to submit a picture nonetheless. This clarifies what was previously a puzzling discrepancy in the dating of Jenkins’s winning work. Friendly critics was completed in 1907, and this date is recorded with Jenkins’s signature in the bottom right-hand corner of the canvas. She subsequently entrusted her painting to the trustees for entry in the competition the following year so that, even though no longer a student at the Gallery School, she was eligible for the scholarship at the end of 1908.

With Wheeler’s elimination, the competition was limited to three students –Jenkins, Cumbrae Stewart and William McInnes, who was the only one of the three to be an enrolled student in 1908. McInnes produced a work titled The empty cradle, 1908 (private collection) (fig. 6), offering a tableau vivant expressing the grief of parental loss.27 Illustrated in W. A. Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies: the story of an art school and its scholarship’, The New Idea, 6 Feb. 1909, p. 115; Catalogue: Joseph Brown Gallery, spring 1976, plate 35; and Deutscher and Hackett online catalogue, auction 4, 16–17 April 2008. The work revived the tradition of the sentimental subject picture, which had been popular with the trustees, cultivated by Folingsby and dominant in competitions at least until 1892 and Hall’s directorship. If McInnes intended to court the perceived preferences of the judges, his choice of subject was ill conceived. Hall insisted that the judging panels were composed of trained and preferably practising artists, progressively replacing trustees who had previously fulfilled this function. The judges in 1908 were the artist Walter Withers, fellow artist Albert Enes who was previously a student of the School, and Ponsonby Carew-Smyth. Like Hall, Carew-Smyth had trained at the South Kensington School and, as Chief Inspector of Schools in Victoria, had revolutionised art teaching in the technical school system. The judges, unimpressed, relegated McInnes’s tonally drab and sentimental picture to fourth and last place.28 Hall eroded the influence of the trustees as judges of the scholarship competition as early as 1893, when they were largely replaced by practising artists. He frequently recruited past students of the Gallery School, including E. Phillips Fox, Tudor St George Tucker, Arthur Loureiro, John Longstaff, David Davies, Walter Withers, Girolamo Nerli, Hugh Ramsay, William Blamire Young and Albert Enes who all served as judges between 1893 and 1908. Ponsonby Carew-Smyth, while not a practising artist, was an influential figure in art education.

The paintings submitted by Jenkins and Cumbrae Stewart further registered a shift in taste away from the moralising and sentimental themes favoured by Victorian audiences towards an Edwardian preference for more aesthetic images, reflecting the leisurely pursuits of a polite and affluent middle-class society. Cumbrae Stewart’s work, An old gown, 1908 (details unknown),29 Illustrated in Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies’, p. 115. absorbed the ethic of ‘art for art’s sake’ upheld by Hall, and was described as worthy of ‘a coming Orchardson’.30 ‘The National Gallery. Annual exhibition of students’ work. Travelling Scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, The Age, 18 Dec. 1908, p. 5. The reference to ‘a coming Orchardson’ relates to the painting The first cloud, 1887, by William Quiller Orchardson (NGV, Melbourne). With its slight psychological drama enacted in the space of a gracious drawing room, the work was popular with Melbourne audiences. Her mise en scène featured a rose-pink interior comfortably furnished, where a young woman in an antique gown of grey-green silk spread the fabric of her skirt for the admiration of her companions. Decorative elements predominated over narrative content, which was observed approvingly by the Age critic of the time, who noted how successfully her painting was composed; in his words, made to ‘hang together with comparatively so little in it’!31 ‘Travelling scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, p. 5. The judges awarded Cumbrae Stewart third place.

Jenkins provided an unprecedented two entries for the competition. Second place was awarded for her work Jour de fête, 1907,32 Illustrated in Somerset, p. 114. an interior scene with three young women gathered around a centrally placed table strewn with flowers, the site for a virtuoso display of still life. The surrounding room was minimally blocked-in with an evident absence of detail, suggesting that the painting was unfinished. It is likely that Jenkins had insufficient time to complete two paintings given the revised rules allowed only a single term for the completion of entries. Jour de fête was nevertheless praised for its ‘refreshing absence of sentimental appeal’, a contrast to the melodrama of McInnes’s painting and in keeping with the praise accorded to Cumbrae Stewart. It was also commended for its ‘impressionistic’ style, a loose application of the term referring not to the light palette and broken brushwork associated with French Impressionism, but rather to the more textured and broader handling of paint introduced under Hall’s aegis.33 Somerset, p.114. Hall shared with many of his contemporaries an admiration for the great Spanish master Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), whose technique preserved a tonal palette while exercising a vigorous freedom in the manipulation of paint.34 Hall was familiar with R. A. M. Stevenson’s Great Masters of Painting and Sculpture: Velazquez published in 1895. Principles endorsed in the chapter ‘The dignity of technique’ in this book were reflected in Hall’s approach. Stevenson was one of Hall’s referees when he applied for the position of Director at the NGV (see Rankin, p. 52). That Jenkins absorbed this influence was demonstrated by the first painting she returned to the trustees under the terms of her scholarship – a copy of Velázquez’s Don Adrián Puledo Pureja, after 1647, in the National Gallery, London.35 Constance Jenkins, Adrián Pulido Pareja (after Diego Velazquez), 1910, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented by Jenkins to the NGV under the terms of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1911.

Friendly critics

Hall consistently accorded his female and male students the same opportunities, and women including Alice Bale, Portia Geach, Elsie Hake, Dora Meeson and Violet Teague had previously been contestants for the scholarship. As an impressionable new arrival at the Gallery School, Jenkins would have absorbed the excitement of the scholarship competition in 1902 and attended the display of students’ paintings at the end of the year. There, she may well have found inspiration in the painting prepared by Bale, which responded to the set topic of ‘Leisure’ and depicted three female figures relaxing during a break in a portrait sitting, topically representing the cultural interests of modern, well-educated women.36 A.M.E. Bale, Leisure moments, 1902, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. Jenkins similarly chose the artist’s studio, probably her own studio within the Painting School, as the setting for her winning painting.

The sitters for Friendly critics have not been identified but, since students could ill afford the expense of professional models, are most likely family members or Jenkins’s colleagues at the school. Earlier in 1907, Jenkins had her niece Margaret Helen Boyne sit for her winning portrait, The girl in white (Portrait of Miss Boyne), exhibited in the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, and it is probable that she was, again, the model for the girl reading in Friendly critics. The younger woman in green silk could be the girl’s mother, Margaret Maria Boyne, Jenkins’s older sister, and the woman in black may be their mother Emma Jenkins, who was by then sixty-five years old. The young man is more difficult to identify; perhaps he was a fellow student at the school. The model for the artist would certainly be one of Jenkins’s student colleagues, who is similarly represented in a drawing in one of Jenkins’s sketchbooks, although in a more upright pose (fig. 7).37 Several of Jenkins’s sketchbooks are held in private collections.

As a figure composition, Friendly critics shares a little of the anecdotal quality of the Victorian subject picture, but with none of the sentimentality of McInnes’s morality play. Instead, it sits more comfortably within the genre of the ‘problem picture’, a popular art form among late Victorian and Edwardian audiences and a staple in exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London.38 The evolution of the ‘problem picture’ and its status as an autonomous genre is covered fully in Pamela M. Fletcher, Narrating Identity: The British Problem Picture, 1895–1914, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2003. The genre was particularly associated with the British painter John Collier and other British artists, such as Frank Dicksee and William Quiller Orchardson. Dicksee’s painting The crisis, 1891, was acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1891, and Orchardson’s The first cloud, 1887, entered the collection a little earlier, in 1887. Both works, late Victorian predecessors of the Edwardian problem picture, focus on a moment of unresolved crisis that prompts the viewer to consider a range of plausible and possibly ambiguous outcomes. Orchardson’s painting was particularly provocative given its depiction of a marital argument, where the traditional roles of dominant husband and submissive wife are reversed, a contravention of social norms that connected with contemporary debates on marriage, gender relationships and the changing status of women. Art historian Pamela Fletcher has argued that this open-ended treatment of subject matter for the exploration of emotional, psychological and social issues was a characteristic of problem pictures that served to create ‘a socially engaged form of public modern art’.39 Pamela M. Fletcher, ‘Masculinity, money and modern art: The sentence of death by John Collier’, in David Peters Corbett & Lara Perry (eds), English Art 1860–1914: Modern Artists and Identity, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000, p. 84.

Friendly critics exhibits visual attributes of the problem picture. It is a scene of modern life, using contemporary costumes and addressing a contemporary issue. It is ‘a portrait of the artist’, but with a young woman in the working role traditionally reserved for men. The moment presented marks a critical point in the implied narrative: the artist has cast down the fabric that concealed the painting on the easel and crouches with palette and brushes in hand, waiting apprehensively for the judgement of her critics. Their visual engagement with the painting will shape their spoken responses, just as another audience would look intently at Friendly critics to decode its narrative and debate its value as a work of art. At the core of the painting is the social question of women and work, a contentious ‘problem’ at the turn of the century as women acquired higher levels of education and sought increasing independence. The formality of the visitors – the bonneted and lace-trimmed elderly lady, the elegant woman in hat and gown and the young man in his suit – contrast with the informality of the artist in her working smock, her hair restrained loosely in a satin band. This difference and her separation at the boundary of the frame proclaim her distinctive vocational role. Her studio represents a private space, her place of work; but is also the site of interaction for the artist and her audience, a threshold that bridges her personal and public worlds.

Completed in the same year as the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, Jenkins’s painting pertinently proposes the legitimacy of women’s work but also defines its limits. Her critics are ‘friendly’, her marketplace a confined one of family and friends. The question of careers for women in the visual arts was vigorously debated in the local media following the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, with the applied and graphic arts selected as suitable occupations for women; allowing them a ‘competent living’ made in a ‘congenial way’.40 This issue was clearly debated in W. Moore, ‘What the artist’s life offers’, part of the series of articles ‘Careers for Australian girls’, The New Idea, Dec. 1907, p. 848. See also Haddon, pp. 219–21; and The Bulletin, 5 Dec. 1907. The fine arts were deemed less appropriate, as a masculine domain of professional work that for women offered limited opportunities and meagre monetary rewards. As an adjunct to this discussion, Friendly critics represented a popular and socially relevant form of art-making.

The Melbourne press regularly reported on the Gallery School’s student exhibitions, and was frequently stringent in its criticism. Friendly critics was a controversial winner, provoking varied assessments of its merits, with particular attention paid to its technical achievements. This preoccupation with the painting’s formal qualities – arrangement, line, colour and tone – registered a critical interest in the painting as a decorative as much as a pictorial composition. The Argus critic responded negatively and declared the topic hackneyed, perhaps with Bale’s picture in mind.41 ‘Travelling Scholarship, prize for painting: young lady successful’, The Argus, 18 Dec. 1908, p. 7. He preferred Jenkins’s second painting Jour de fête, admiring its ‘clever composition’ and ‘sculptural simplicity’, while dismissing Friendly critics for its ‘crude realism’ and ‘commonplace composition’, noting as well a ‘disquieting tangle of form’.

This criticism is not well founded. Jenkins created a complex composition, using as many as five figures, variously posed, and arranged on an almost square canvas – a challenging format unusual for a scholarship work. How to manage these multiple figures across the canvas was clearly an organisational challenge, competently if not perfectly resolved. The image is cropped at the edges, eliminating peripheral detail in order to focus on the ensemble of figures, particularly on the two seated women. The crouching figure of the artist, arm extending into the curve of her palette, shifts the focus sidewards; away from the clustered group at right towards the spatially isolated girl at left. The girl’s isolation is accentuated by the vertical division provided by the easel, as well as by the relatively empty space at the painting’s centre. Engrossed in an imaginary world, the figure is oblivious to the scene around her – an extension perhaps of the artist’s persona, in retreat as she awaits the judgement of her critics. The discarded fabric and jar of brushes at the base of the easel – the mandatory still life inserted for decorative effect – is a distracting punctuation point; and the cloth-covered table behind is awkward. The overall effect, however, is dramatic. The dynamic rotational movement generated by the artist’s gesture energises the composition and, in association with the apprehension expressed in her pose, infuses the painting with a sense of psychological, rather than sentimental, tension.

The Age critic proclaimed Friendly critics and Cumbrae Stewart’s An old gown as the best pictures ever painted for the Travelling Scholarship, works remarkable for the fact that composition was not formally taught at the Gallery School.42 ‘Travelling Scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, p. 5. While students were taught the processes of their craft, they had no instruction in the integration of these skills into the composition of a large-scale picture; and, while scholarship entrants were supervised to ensure the originality of their work, they received no direction or assistance. The formation of a successful composition was consequently a test of a student’s individual sensibility. A further positive and comprehensive critique appeared as a feature article in The New Idea magazine, which included a full-page reproduction of the painting with its ‘First Prize’ sticker attached.43 Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies’, p. 114. The writer, comparing Jenkins’s two paintings, found Jour de fête more immediately appealing, praising what he described as its ‘impressionistic’ handling and a refreshing absence of sentimental appeal; but judged Friendly critics as clearly more meritorious, its outstanding quality being its ‘excellence of craftsmanship’.

Jenkins’s acknowledged craftsmanship reflected the aesthetic preferences and instructional practices of her teacher. Hall initially defined the skills he wished to teach his students as the representation of form, control of tone in the massing of light and shade and the subtle application of colour, which should pervade the whole.44 Hall, letter to Langton, 18 Nov. 1892, quoted in Cox, p. 48. Langton had requested Hall’s views on the teaching of art. However, for Hall these qualities constituted the basis rather than the end point of good painting. In 1907, in an article titled ‘Originality in art’, he wrote of the ‘essential and superlative quality’ that went beyond ‘pattern, colour-scheme or composition’, naming this as a ‘sensuous or decorative beauty, and its high technical achievement’.45 L. Bernard Hall, ‘Originality in art,’ The Argus, 31 Aug. 1907, p. 6. In 1908, Hall elaborated further in the article ‘Beauty in art’, where he referred to the ‘joy of production’ that must transcend the labour of art-making – ‘the joy of work, for its own sweet sake’.46 L. Bernard Hall, ‘Beauty in art,’ The Argus, 28 Nov. 1908, p. 6. Hall’s thesis in this article is developed via consideration of various works in the NGV collection, including Camille Corot’s The Bent Tree (L’Arbre penché), c.1855–60, which is the subject of discussion in the section quoted here. Hall subsequently published a number of articles developing his philosophy of art, culminating in Art and Life: A Lecture Delivered in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, on Thursday, June 13, 1918, Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1918; and Art and Life; and Seed, Soil, Tillage and Crop (John Murtagh Macrossan Lectures), Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1931. Pictorial art was, he argued ‘portraiture, plus pattern and paint’; and he emphasised above all the ‘marvellous manipulation’ of paint, described in terms of ‘the blob, spot and streak – the blurred mass, the accentuated dab, the drawn-out line’, which ultimately communicated the beauty of the subject. For Hall, this subjectivity, a natural and full self-expression, was the essence of individuality in art.47 L. Bernard Hall, ‘The formula of art’, The Argus, 7 Aug. 1915, p. 4.

Certainly, with Friendly critics Jenkins adhered closely to the tenets of Hall’s instruction, building up the painting from a neutral green-brown base and constructing its forms from a tonal palette to produce a subtle modelling. These planes of tone were then enlivened by strategically placed colour. The artist’s palette carries these colour highlights, with the light green picked up in the costume of the younger woman, the swag of fabric at the foot of the easel and at the rear, in the landscape on the wall. The deep pink is repeated in the trim on the older lady’s bonnet; grades of white recur in the younger woman’s hat, the man’s collar and cuffs and the artist’s blouse. The energetic impasto brushwork further animates the surface, creating an overall texture and sense of bravura gesture associated with an Edwardian aesthetic. Hall’s generous praise – he declared Friendly critics ‘second to none’ in the history of the competition – reflected his pride in the student whose performance so successfully preserved his principles.48 L. Bernard Hall’s report in Report of the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 1908, Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, 1909, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, pp. 5, 21.

Although a period of only twenty years separates this painting from Longstaff’s Breaking the news, in terms of style they are markedly divergent. Longstaff absorbed a nineteenth-century aesthetic transcribed in idiosyncratically Australian terms   – an anecdotal subject mythologised within the hard edges and smooth surface of an academic style. Jenkins modified this aesthetic by producing an open-ended narrative with social relevance for an early twentieth-century audience. At the same time, she deferred to Hall’s fin-de-siècle commitment to ‘art for art’s sake’, valuing the crafting of a decorative composition and taking pleasure in the physicality of paint. The reproduction of Friendly critics in the prestigious arts magazine The International Studio in 1909 was confirmation of its identification with contemporary trends in Edwardian art, both pictorially and aesthetically.49 Somerset, p. 113; see The International Studio, vol. 46, June 1909, p. 251, for a photograph of the painting; p. 253 for text submitted by ‘J. S.’, possibly James Smith, at that time a journalist with The Age and a trustee of the NGV.

Conclusion

In 1912, after completing her scholarship and returning from Europe, Jenkins exhibited Friendly critics and Jour de fête at an exhibition of ninety-six works at Athenaeum Hall, Melbourne.50 Jillian Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 2’, Women’s Art Register Bulletin, no. 28, July 1998, pp. 23–8. The large studio pieces showcasing her expertise as a figure painter were considered the highlight of the exhibition, and superior to the many small, exuberant plein-air works painted while she was abroad. Nearly half were sold, with Jour de fête collecting the sizeable price of eighty guineas. Friendly critics, however, was withheld from sale. Instead, in 1915 it was presented to the NGV in lieu of the original work normally presented to the trustees under the scholarship’s terms.

In 1924, in a retrospective evaluation of the Travelling Scholarship, Hall concluded that only five recipients of the scholarship had justified the award by achieving success as practising artists, and that often the most brilliant students ‘missed out’; he named Wheeler, McInnes and Cumbrae Stewart, among others, in the latter category. He thought that Jenkins had produced the best work of all, executed when she was still a student.51 L. Bernard Hall, Report on the Travelling Scholarship, 27 March 1924, cited in Cox, p. 100. Hall’s opinions were further summarised in MacDonald, p. 63. He concluded that of all the scholarship pictures received, only two would have ‘a permanent place’ in the collection – Longstaff’s large symbolist work The Sirens, 1892,52 Presented by the artist to the NGV under the terms of the Travelling Scholarship, 1894. and Jenkins’s Friendly critics.53 How much longer Friendly critics remained hanging in the painting galleries is difficult to know. In a letter to the editor in The Argus, 26 Nov. 1929, p. 19, Stephanie Taylor, art critic and advocate for the work of women artists, named Jenkins as one of seventy to eighty women whose work ‘hung alongside those of their brother artists’ in the leading public galleries of the Commonwealth. Also, in the transcript of an interview with Jenkins recorded in 1937, there is reference to the continuing presence of Friendly critics in the permanent collection (Gene Haley, Californian Art Research Monographs, vol. 15, WPA Project, San Francisco, 1938, p. 24).

Despite the accolades received at the time, for many years Jenkins and her painting were virtually unknown. At the conclusion of her scholarship term, Jenkins returned to Melbourne only briefly before leaving for San Francisco.54 Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 2’, pp. 23–8. There, she married fellow artist Eric Spencer Macky, originally from New Zealand and an ex-student of the Gallery School (fig. 9). As an expatriate  artist, Jenkins maintained connections with the Australian art world. She participated in the painting of decorative panels for the Commonwealth Buildings at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. She exhibited a work titled The Peri, 1919, with the Australian Art Association in 1919, reproduced as a full-page feature in The International Studio magazine earlier that year (fig. 10).55 The Peri was purchased for a private collection in San Francisco in 1919. Its whereabouts are now unknown. The painting appeared as a full-page, black-and-white reproduction in The International Studio, vol. 67, no. 268, June 1919, p. 127. It was also exhibited in the Forty-third Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association, March–May 1919, and with the Australian Art Association at the Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne, Oct. 1919. Also in 1919, her painting Chrysanthemums, 1916 (fig. 11), appeared as a full-page colour reproduction in the journal Art in Australia.56 H. Julius, ‘Constance Jenkins Macky’, Art in Australia, no. 6, 1919, n. p. The painting was executed in 1916, and was originally known as Bud and blossom. It was purchased for a private collection in Burlingame, California. Its whereabouts are now unknown. Jenkins exhibited again in 1935, with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors. In San Francisco she was highly successful as a teacher and an active and respected figure in the artistic community, exhibiting her work in local venues and serving on exhibition juries. She continued to paint mostly portraits, some as public commissions but more for a private clientele. The consequent invisibility of her oeuvre, cloistered within private collections, has left it inaccessible to the public and largely undocumented.57 Linda Nochlin explored this issue in ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, in Thomas B. Hess & Elizabeth C. Baker (eds), Art and Sexual Politics: Women’s Liberation, Women Artists, and Art History, Collier, New York, 1971, pp. 1–39. Nochlin specifically discusses the ‘institutional or public’ and the ‘individual or private’ impediments to women’s success and their acknowledgement as artists (p. 36). Ironically, this message was implicit in her scholarship painting – a woman’s work could aspire to prominence, where it embraced established aesthetic values; but its dependence on a private market of ‘friendly critics’, without ongoing recognition and support at an institutional level, would generate a process of historical forgetting.

The progressive rise of modernism brought with it a disdain for Victorian painting, with its overt sentimentality and moralising tone, and for Edwardian art, which was dismissed as vacuously decorative. Paintings such as Friendly critics, once admired, came off the walls and were put into storage. The past ten years, however, have seen a revival of interest in the Edwardian era and a reassessment of art of the period in landmark exhibitions such as The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in 2004, and Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century at the Yale Centre of British Art, New Haven, in 2013.58 Catalogues published in association with these exhibitions were: Anne Gray, The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2004; and Angus Trumble & Andrea Wolk Rager (eds), Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, Yale Centre for British Art, in association with Yale University Press, New Haven, 2013. A more general revisionist consideration of the history of the Edwardian era is provided in Morna O’Neill & Michael Hatt (eds), The Edwardian Sense: Art, Design and Performance in Britain, 1901–1910, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2010.

In association with the NGV’s 150th birthday celebrations, Friendly critics underwent its own revival. Restoration of the painting, including cleaning, was completed expertly and meticulously by the Gallery’s conservators.59 Information about the restoration of the painting is provided in detail in Helen Gill (H. D. T. Williamson Foundation Painting Conservation Fellow), ‘On the mend: NGV conservation’, Gallery, July/Aug. 2011, pp. 24–5. The canvas was re-stretched and a new frame provided, with photographic images and additional archival documentation permitting an accurate reconstruction. Nearly one hundred years since its acquisition in 1915, Friendly critics has been handsomely restored and placed on display as a significant and representative example of the Edwardian aesthetic, and as a commemoration of that moment in the story of Australian art when, for the first time, a woman artist stepped out on centre stage.

Jillian Dwyer, independant scholar (in 2014)

Notes

1       Information about Jenkins and Friendly critics appeared in Joan Kerr (ed.), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book, 500 Works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955, Art & Australia with Craftsman House, 1995, pp. 18, 379–80; and, in greater detail, in Jillian Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 1’, Women’s Art Register Bulletin, no. 27, May 1998, pp. 5–10. 

2       The history of the Travelling Scholarship from 1887 to 1932 is covered in detail in Jillian Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship 1887–1932’, MA thesis, Department of Visual Arts, Monash University, Melbourne, 1997. A listing of winning artists and paintings is provided in Appendix 2 of the thesis. The nine women who successively won the scholarship in the period covered were: Constance Jenkins (1908), (Constance) Winifred Honey (1911), Ethel Bishop (1914), Marion Jones (1917), Adelaide Perry (1920), Jean Sutherland (1923), Nancy Guest (1926), Constance Parkin (Stokes) (1929) and Eileen Robertson (1932).

3       Friendly critics was presented by Jenkins to the NGV under the terms of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1915.

4       See Dwyer, ‘A professional education: Bernard Hall and the National Gallery School 1892–1907’, and ‘Women’s work: the years 1908–1917’, in Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship 1887–1932’, pp. 16–28, 42–54.

5       Sir Henry Loch quoted in The Age, 11 March 1886, p. 5.

6       The medal was designed by Allan Wyon and valued at £15. On the reverse it was decorated with a garland of Victorian native plants and inscribed with the words ‘National Gallery of Victoria-Australia, Travelling Scholarship’, and the recipient’s name (Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, 1886–1934, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, vol. 15, Oct. 1883 – May 1904, p. 183).

7       In 1869, the trustees provided the means for a travelling scholarship by investing £450 from the Art Exhibition Fund, which represented the profits from the highly successful loan exhibition of that year (Edmund Latouche Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria: 1856–1906, Ford and Son, Melbourne, 1906, p. 56). Financing of the scholarship was also noted in 1886 in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, p. 62; and in a report on the initiation of the scholarship published in The Age, 11 March 1886, p. 5.

8       For the rules specified in 1890 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria: The National Gallery: rules for the students in the Schools of Drawing and Painting’, Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, pp. 183-5. In addition to the general principles formulated in 1886, it was specified that entrants must have attended the school for no less than three terms and no more than nine terms; the recipient must study in one of the great art centres of Europe, as approved by the trustees; and the recipient must submit to the trustees two copies of master works in the first two years, and an original work in the third. Modifications to the ‘Rules and regulations’ were incorporated in 1898 and 1906, which tended to reflect changes that occurred on a pragmatic basis in the preceding years.  These ‘Rules and regulations’ are summarised in Dwyer, ‘The “work” of art: the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1887–1932’, Appendix 1.

9       Alexander Colquhoun, Frederick McCubbin: A Consideration, Australian Art Books, 1919, n. p.

10     Bernard Hall, letter to the Chief Librarian, 27 July 1893, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, quoted in Leonard B. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861–1968: A Search for a Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1970, pp. 49–50.

11     Cox, p. 50.

12     A summary of Hall’s views is provided in the article, ‘The students’ exhibition at the National Gallery’, The Argus, 14 Dec., 1893, p. 5; see also James S. MacDonald, ‘Bernard Hall and the Victorian National Gallery School’, Art in Australia, Oct.–Nov. 1930, p. 62.

13     Bernard Hall, letter to Edward Langton 18 Nov. 1892, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne. The italics are Hall’s. This correspondence is quoted in Cox, pp. 48–9.

14     Gwen Rankin, L. Bernard Hall: The Man the Art World Forgot, New South Publishing, Sydney, in association with the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013, pp. 71–5. According to Rankin, the protracted division between Hall and the trustees on this question rated as ‘the most critical early test of Hall’s administrative abilities’. Several students were debarred from the competition in 1893 by dint of attendance that exceeded the eligibility requirements. The matter was resolved on the morning of judging for the scholarship.

15     Apart from the attendance requirements, there was no further specification as to eligibility. It can be assumed that senior students in the painting class, who fulfilled eligibility requirements and achieved an acceptable standard in painting the figure, were permitted to enter the competition.

16     In 1896, Hugh Ramsay was antagonised by the participation of George Pontin, who was a competitor previously in 1893 and was allowed to enter again in 1896, despite an absence from the school for three years. Ramsay found himself similarly compromised leading up to the competition of 1899. Because his attendance would have exceeded the permitted maximum, he withdrew from formal studies for two terms in 1897 (Patricia Fullerton, Hugh Ramsay: His Life and Work, Hudson, Hawthorn, 1988, pp. 20–2).

17     For the amendments of 1898 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria’ in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, pp. 367–9. Curiously, entry was extended ‘to any student of a school subsidised by the government of Victoria’ who was able to fulfil the attendance, age and residency conditions. Amendments to the rules introduced in 1898 also included a change in the works to be submitted by the recipient to the trustees, which were to include a study from the nude in the first year, a copy of a well-known work by an Old Master in the second, and an original work in the third.

18     ‘Men of mark in our midst: John S. Jenkins, Esq.’, Richmond Courier: Supplement, 6 March 1889.

19     National Gallery of Victoria Student Prize Winners Book, collection of bound handwritten sheets, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.

20     R. Haddon, ‘The First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, Melbourne, 1907’, Art and Architecture, vol. 4, no. 6, Nov.–Dec. 1907, pp. 219–22.

21     ibid., p. 221.

22     For the amendments of 1906 see ‘Rules and regulations for the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria’ in Minute Books of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, 1886–1934, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, vol. 16 (June 1904 – Dec. 1915), pp. 103-6. Several of the rules formulated in 1906 did not apply officially until the competition of 1911. These included the creation of a points system for the selection of the scholarship winner; and the changed provision that the recipient would now return to the trustees an original work, a figure drawing from life, and a life-sized painting of the nude. The ‘Rules and regulations’ of 1906 remained in place until 1920 although, as previously, some changes continued to be introduced in advance of their formalisation.

23     Given the supervision requirements of the competition, it is difficult to see how entries for the scholarship could be accepted from students not attending the Gallery School, and there is no evidence that such entries ever occurred. This provision was a modification of one first introduced in 1898. See note 17.

24     Esther Paterson, ‘Gallery days’, The Star, 29 June 1935, p. 35.

25     Fullerton, pp. 111–12.

26     ‘Mr Charles Wheeler’, The Age, 23 March 1929. Despite his disappointment, Wheeler recalled Hall’s kindness at the time, assisting him in finding a market for his work.

27     Illustrated in W. A. Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies: the story of an art school and its scholarship’, The New Idea, 6 Feb. 1909, p. 115; Catalogue: Joseph Brown Gallery, spring 1976, plate 35; and Deutscher and Hackett online catalogue, auction 4, 16–17 April 2008.

28     Hall eroded the influence of the trustees as judges of the scholarship competition as early as 1893, when they were largely replaced by practising artists. He frequently recruited past students of the Gallery School, including E. Phillips Fox, Tudor St George Tucker, Arthur Loureiro, John Longstaff, David Davies, Walter Withers, Girolamo Nerli, Hugh Ramsay, William Blamire Young and Albert Enes who all served as judges between 1893 and 1908. Ponsonby Carew-Smyth, while not a practising artist, was an influential figure in art education.

29     Illustrated in Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies’, p. 115.

30     ‘The National Gallery. Annual exhibition of students’ work. Travelling Scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, The Age, 18 Dec. 1908, p. 5. The reference to ‘a coming Orchardson’ relates to the painting The first cloud, 1887, by William Quiller Orchardson (NGV, Melbourne). With its slight psychological drama enacted in the space of a gracious drawing room, the work was popular with Melbourne audiences.

31     ‘Travelling scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, p. 5.

32     Illustrated in Somerset, p. 114.

33     Somerset, p.114.

34     Hall was familiar with R. A. M. Stevenson’s Great Masters of Painting and Sculpture: Velazquez published in 1895. Principles endorsed in the chapter ‘The dignity of technique’ in this book were reflected in Hall’s approach. Stevenson was one of Hall’s referees when he applied for the position of Director at the NGV (see Rankin, p. 52).

35     Constance Jenkins, Adrián Pulido Pareja (after Diego Velazquez), 1910, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented by Jenkins to the NGV under the terms of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1911.

36     A.M.E. Bale, Leisure moments, 1902, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.

37     Several of Jenkins’s sketchbooks are held in private collections.

38     The evolution of the ‘problem picture’ and its status as an autonomous genre is covered fully in Pamela M. Fletcher, Narrating Identity: The British Problem Picture, 1895–1914, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2003.

39     Pamela M. Fletcher, ‘Masculinity, money and modern art: The sentence of death by John Collier’, in David Peters Corbett & Lara Perry (eds), English Art 1860–1914: Modern Artists and Identity, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000, p. 84.

40     This issue was clearly debated in W. Moore, ‘What the artist’s life offers’, part of the series of articles ‘Careers for Australian girls’, The New Idea, Dec. 1907, p. 848. See also Haddon, pp. 219–21; and The Bulletin, 5 Dec. 1907.

41     ‘Travelling Scholarship, prize for painting: young lady successful’, The Argus, 18 Dec. 1908, p. 7.

42     ‘Travelling Scholarship won by Miss Constance Jenkins’, p. 5.

43     Somerset, ‘A triumph for the ladies’, p. 114.

44     Hall, letter to Langton, 18 Nov. 1892, quoted in Cox, p. 48. Langton had requested Hall’s views on the teaching of art.

45     L. Bernard Hall, ‘Originality in art,’ The Argus, 31 Aug. 1907, p. 6.

46     L. Bernard Hall, ‘Beauty in art,’ The Argus, 28 Nov. 1908, p. 6. Hall’s thesis in this article is developed via consideration of various works in the NGV collection, including Camille Corot’s The Bent Tree (L’Arbre penché), c.1855–60, which is the subject of discussion in the section quoted here. Hall subsequently published a number of articles developing his philosophy of art, culminating in Art and Life: A Lecture Delivered in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, on Thursday, June 13, 1918, Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1918; and Art and Life; and Seed, Soil, Tillage and Crop (John Murtagh Macrossan Lectures), Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1931.

47     L. Bernard Hall, ‘The formula of art’, The Argus, 7 Aug. 1915, p. 4.

48     L. Bernard Hall’s report in Report of the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 1908, Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria, 1909, State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, pp. 5, 21.

49     Somerset, p. 113; see The International Studio, vol. 46, June 1909, p. 251, for a photograph of the painting; p. 253 for text submitted by ‘J. S.’, possibly James Smith, at that time a journalist with The Age and a trustee of the NGV.

50     Jillian Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 2’, Women’s Art Register Bulletin, no. 28, July 1998, pp. 23–8.

51     L. Bernard Hall, Report on the Travelling Scholarship, 27 March 1924, cited in Cox, p. 100. Hall’s opinions were further summarised in MacDonald, p. 63.

52     Presented by the artist to the NGV under the terms of the Travelling Scholarship, 1894.

53     How much longer Friendly critics remained hanging in the painting galleries is difficult to know. In a letter to the editor in The Argus, 26 Nov. 1929, p. 19, Stephanie Taylor, art critic and advocate for the work of women artists, named Jenkins as one of seventy to eighty women whose work ‘hung alongside those of their brother artists’ in the leading public galleries of the Commonwealth. Also, in the transcript of an interview with Jenkins recorded in 1937, there is reference to the continuing presence of Friendly critics in the permanent collection (Gene Haley, Californian Art Research Monographs, vol. 15, WPA Project, San Francisco, 1938, p. 24).

54     Dwyer, ‘Portrait of the artist as a working woman: Constance Jenkins Macky, part 2’, pp. 23–8.

55     The Peri was purchased for a private collection in San Francisco in 1919. Its whereabouts are now unknown. The painting appeared as a full-page, black-and-white reproduction in The International Studio, vol. 67, no. 268, June 1919, p. 127. It was also exhibited in the Forty-third Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association, March–May 1919, and with the Australian Art Association at the Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne, Oct. 1919.

56     H. Julius, ‘Constance Jenkins Macky’, Art in Australia, no. 6, 1919, n. p. The painting was executed in 1916, and was originally known as Bud and blossom. It was purchased for a private collection in Burlingame, California. Its whereabouts are now unknown.

57     Linda Nochlin explored this issue in ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, in Thomas B. Hess & Elizabeth C. Baker (eds), Art and Sexual Politics: Women’s Liberation, Women Artists, and Art History, Collier, New York, 1971, pp. 1–39. Nochlin specifically discusses the ‘institutional or public’ and the ‘individual or private’ impediments to women’s success and their acknowledgement as artists (p. 36).  

58     Catalogues published in association with these exhibitions were: Anne Gray, The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2004; and Angus Trumble & Andrea Wolk Rager (eds), Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, Yale Centre for British Art, in association with Yale University Press, New Haven, 2013. A more general revisionist consideration of the history of the Edwardian era is provided in Morna O’Neill & Michael Hatt (eds), The Edwardian Sense: Art, Design and Performance in Britain, 1901–1910, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2010.

59     Information about the restoration of the painting is provided in detail in Helen Gill (H. D. T. Williamson Foundation Painting Conservation Fellow), ‘On the mend: NGV conservation’, Gallery, July/Aug. 2011, pp. 24–5.