fig. 2 
Thea Proctor

‘Clothes,’ said Miss Proctor, sitting in that white-walled studio of hers where the woodcuts make such attractive spashes [sic] of yellow and magenta and vermilion, ‘fashionable clothes are too much the same.’ 

 

She turned over a copy of Vogue that was lying on the little yellow drawing table in front of her and found a picture of one of London’s more advanced poetesses in a billowing dress of mediaeval brocade. 

 

‘In London it is different. There quite a number of people dress to express their personalities. I don’t mean fancy dress or anything startling like Isadora Duncan’s brother who used to wear a Greek tunic and sandals on Chelsea Embankment in the chilliest weather, or one London authoress who generally attends dinner parties in hunting pink – the long top coat looped back over an evening dress. But there are so many ways – almost imperceptible ways – in which a woman can modify the existing fashion so as to make a dress express her own personality rather than the personality of the shop from which it came. And her own period – it is a mistake to think that all women belong to the twentieth century simply because they were born in it.’1‘Modifying the Mode by Selecting the Suitable Century’, The Home, Sydney, 1 March 1926, p. 22. 

This interview with the artist Thea Proctor was published in 1926 in The Home magazine, purveyor of taste and style for fashionable Sydney in the 1920s and 1930s. In the remainder of the article, Proctor refers to a number of sketches she had made of friends, the way in which she ‘dressed’ them ‘governed rather by the laws of line than the dictates of current fashion’.2ibid. Proctor’s sketches reveal an idiosyncratic, eclectic and flexible attitude towards fashion and dress, an attitude that is similarly evident in the recurring, dominant subjects in her art – friends and acquaintances in fancy or contemporary dress, models connected with the theatre and the dance, or tall, often fantastically outfitted, figures, drawn from the imagination. 

Fashion and theatricality were clearly central to Proctor’s art in the 1920s and 1930s. While scholarly attention has focused on this period, these important themes in Proctor’s work in fact developed out of her experience of the more lively aspects of contemporary English culture during her first period of residence in London, from 1903 to 1912. Indeed, little work has been done on Proctor before her final return to Australia from England in 1921,3Only Minchin and Butler have dealt with this period, providing a useful starting point (J. Minchin, ‘Thea Proctor: A Biography’, in C. Deutscher, J. Minchin & R Butler, Thea Proctor: The Prints, Sydney, 1980, pp 6–13; R. Butler, ‘The Prints’, in Deutscher, Minchin & Butler, pp. 14–21). and her subsequent emergence as a force in the Sydney art world. This article will investigate the artist’s early experiences in England, and will consider her attitudes towards fashion in the context of several works produced around 1910–11, the time of her first major exhibition in London. 

Alethea Mary Proctor, called Thea, was born at Armidale, New South Wales, on 2 October 1879.4Alethea is the correct spelling of Proctor’s first name, which is often misspelt in auction catalogues as ‘Althea’. Her father, a solicitor, was originally from Lancashire, and her mother, Kathleen Roberts, who was a cousin of the artist John Peter Russell (1858–1930), was from Brisbane. During the 1880s the family lived in the Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill, then later Kathleen moved to Bowral after separating from her husband, bringing up Thea and her brother, Frederick, with the help of her parents. 

Proctor later recalled that her mother was very ambitious for both her children and had them taught the violin from an early age. Kathleen loved music and took lessons in singing, the piano and also painting.5Thea Waddell, interview with the author, Sydney, 11 August 1993. At Bowral, Proctor attended Lynthorpe Ladies’ College, where her artistic leanings were directed into painting and drawing studies. At the end of the school year in 1894 she received first prize, in the senior division, for ‘Painting & Conduct’.6The prize was a copy of E. P. Roe’s book Barriers Burned Away, inscribed to Proctor on the flyleaf. The book is now in the possession of the artist’s niece Thea Bryant in Sydney. In June of that year she had won her first art prize, at the exhibition of the Bowral District Amateur Art Society, for an oil painting of her violin and a bouquet of flowers.

In 1896, at the age of sixteen, Proctor joined Julian Ashton’s art school in Sydney. In her classes there she learnt the value of draughtsmanship, and probably a certain freedom of outlook, for Ashton encouraged individual expression and ‘acknowledged no hierarchy of subject matter’.7D. Dysart, Julian Ashton: Essay on the Artist, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1981, p. 24. Proctor’s earliest work, from the years 1897–99, consisted of bookplates, black and white studies, posters and some watercolours. Titles of works exhibited by her at this time – Heloise, Guinevere, The LotusA Fable – indicate a penchant for romantic and medievalised nineteenth-century subject matter.8Such imagery was very popular with British artists, both male and female, at this time (see J Christian (ed), The Last Romantics: The Romantic Tradition in British Art – Burne-Jones to Stanley Spencer (exh. cat.), Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1989). The present whereabouts of the four works referred to here are unknown. Avoiding landscape and still life, Proctor worked exclusively with figurative imagery, depicting mainly women in decorative compositions; a similar approach was taken by a number of Australian artists then working under the influence of art nouveau.

The English art journal The Studio was an important source of inspiration for Proctor at this time, as it was for other Australian artists in the 1890s.9See A. Brothers, A Studio Portrait: The Marketing of Art and Taste 1893–1918, Melbourne, 1993, ch 7. It is likely that her interest in the poster developed from her reading about the poster movement in this journal,10For references to the poster movement in the Studio, see ‘Studio-Talk’, vol. VII, no. 37, April 1896, p. 172, C. White, ‘The Posters of Louis Rhead’, vol. VIII, no. 41, August 1896, pp. 156–61. Other relevant articles include C. H. B. Quennell, ‘The Decoration of a Commonplace Room’, vol. X, no. 47, February 1897, pp. 37–40; M. Armour, ‘Mural Decoration in Scotland: Part 1’, vol. X, no. 48, March 1897, pp. 100–6; G. White, ‘The Work of Byam Shaw’, vol. X, no. 50, May 1897, pp. 209–21; and his ‘Some Glasgow Designers and Their Work: Part IV’, vol. XIII, no. 59, February 1898, pp 12–25. and it is not difficult to discern the Studio’s influence in the few records of Proctor’s art before 1903.11For early reproductions of Proctor’s work, see Australian Magazine, 30 March 1899, p. 56; 29 April 1899, p. 129; 30 May 1899, pp. 196, 198; 17 August 1899, pp. 327, 349, 353; 18 September 1899, pp. 370, 451 (only six issues of this magazine were published, in 1899). Works reproduced in catalogues were Birds of a Feather (Society of Artists Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1901, cat. no. 89); and The Tryst (Royal Art Society of New South Wales Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1902, cat. no. 40). 

Undoubtedly the Studio also fostered a desire in the young artist to experience the British art world at first hand.12A letter written shortly after her arrival in London is full of references to artists that Proctor noted she had read about previously in the Studio (Thea Proctor, letter to Mrs Irvine, 20 November [1903], National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). Mrs Irvine, of Sydney, was presumably married to Robert F. Irvine (1861–1941), economist, who had planned the short-lived Australian Magazine, to which Proctor contributed in 1899. In 1899 one Australian critic wrote: ‘There can be no question that in Australia an artist, however gifted, has little to look forward to; in the old world the rewards are necessarily greater’.13A. J. Daplyn, ‘Art Notes’, Australasian Art Review, 1 May 1899, p. 14. Conscious of the truth of this sentiment, Kathleen Proctor was determined that Thea would have her chance in England,14Waddell interview. and in April 1903 the two women set sail for London, arriving there on 8 June that year. 

In her first six months in London, Proctor met many artists and saw much to stimulate her.15This fact she communicated enthusiastically to Mrs Irvine (Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]). Miss Olga Morgan, who painted miniatures and illustrated children’s books, took the young Australian to Eleanor F. Brickdale’s studio, where she also met the muralist Gerald Moira.16Olga Morgan exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1897 till 1904, ceasing to exhibit in London in 1906; Proctor had read about her in the Studio (Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]), and it is interesting to note that Morgan had been in Sydney in 1902. Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (1872–1945) studied at the Royal Academy Schools and worked in a Pre-Raphaelite manner, as a book illustrator and as a painter in oils and watercolours; Proctor may have read about her in the Studio in 1898 and 1901 (see E. B. S., ‘Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale: Designer and Illustrator’, Studio, vol. XII, no. 60, March 1898, pp. 103–8; W. S. Sparrow, ‘On Some Watercolour Pictures by Miss Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale’, Studio, vol. XXIII, no. 99, June 1901, pp. 31-44). For Gerald Moira, see H. Watkins, The Art of Gerald Moira, London, [1922]. Proctor met the Australian artist John Longstaff in the street, and often saw George and Amy Lambert. It was no doubt through the Lamberts that she met Amy and Constance Halford and their sister Mary, who was married to the prominent collector Sir Edmund Davis.17The Halfords were an expatriate Australian family and appear in a number of paintings and drawings by George Lambert. They are probably the subject of his drawing The three sisters, 1906 (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane). An oil portrait by Lambert of Amy Halford was exhibited at the International Society in London in 1908. For the Halford sisters, see A. Gray, in H. Kolenberg & A. Gray, George Lambert 1873–1930: Drawings (exh. cat.), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1993, cat. no. 24. Constance and Mary were practising artists, and at Constance’s studio Proctor met the artists and exquisites Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, and also Charles Conder, whose work she had previously seen in Australia. The exhibitions she visited in 1903 included those at the Royal Academy and the Society of Portrait Painters; at the Society of Portrait Painters, she most admired Whistler’s Rouge et Noir: L’Eventail, some John Laverys, Shannons, a Giovanni Boldini and ‘a most extraordinary portrait group’ by the Spaniard Ignacio Zuloaga.18Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]. 

Studying alongside George Lambert (1873–1930), Proctor attended lessons at the art school in South Kensington and at private schools, including the St John’s Wood Art School, for as long as she was financially able, pursuing her studies with professional purpose. In mid-1905 Kathleen Proctor returned to Australia, and her daughter chose to stay on in England. Despite financial hardship the artist preferred the stimulating environment of London, not only for the greater learning and exhibiting opportunities, but also for the city’s cultural richness. She was not to return to Australia until October 1912.19Proctor would stay in Sydney for almost two years, leaving to return to England in July 1914. She then remained abroad for another seven years before returning permanently to Australia in September 1921. 

By 1905, however, her work was still unexhibited – and in her opinion unexhibitable – and to support herself she tried to get work as an illustrator and to obtain portrait commissions.20Waddell interview. Arthur Streeton was right when he reported in 1906 that life was very tough for Australian artists in London, both financially and socially, and that one faced loneliness and isolation unless one could get into ‘a chain of men’.21‘Our Artists Abroad: A Chat with Arthur Streeton’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1906, p. 7. It was much harder for women, he acknowledged.22‘See Our Australian Artists’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1906, p. 6. At one point Proctor’s clothes even fell apart, and because of this she felt she had to ‘drop’ all the people she had first met in London – who could have helped her by giving her commissions for portraits.23Waddell interview. She eventually resorted to modelling, and, prior to her well-known appearances in several of George Lambert’s large-scale family pieces, she featured in a series of Lambert’s illustrations for the Strand magazine.24See Strand, vol. 29, no. 172, April 1905, pp. 409, 411–13. Cuttings from the magazine were among Thea Proctor’s personal effects when she died, and are now in the possession of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Thea Proctor file (Print Room). The paintings by Lambert in which Proctor appears include Lotty and the lady, 1906 (National Gallery of Victoria), The bathers, 1907 (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide), The mother, 1907 (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane), The blue hat, 1909 (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth), and The sonnet (1907) (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). It is possible to see in these works that the artist did indeed have a limited wardrobe at this time, yet her innate sense of fashion and style prevailed: she managed to present herself stylishly by means of the simple addition of a shawl or a fashionable hat, and with her characteristic poise and beauty.25During this period, Proctor won a student prize of £30, and spent the whole sum on a pair of antique Spanish gold earrings. 

It was not until May 1907 that a work by Proctor was accepted for exhibition for the first time. But the artist felt vindicated for her study and struggles, for this work, A portrait, was included in the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy (no. 1383).26Waddell interview. From then on, until her return visit to Australia in October 1912, she regularly exhibited watercolours, silk fans, and drawings in large group shows at a number of venues. In March 1911 she participated in a major joint exhibition with six male artists at the Goupil Gallery.27Exhibition of Works of Patrick W. Adam, R.S.A., J. C. W. Cossaar, Arthur Friedenson, R. Givelo Goodman, Alexander Jamieson, Thea Proctor, Douglas Wells, Goupil Gallery, London, March–April 1911. 

Subjects from the theatre and from dance were prominent in Proctor’s oeuvre at this time; only two portraits, in black and white, were exhibited at the Goupil Gallery. One at least of the artist’s early subjects from the theatre was from the popular realm of the English music hall: Proctor relished originality and spectacle in many forms. The work in question was Yip-i-addy, c.1910 (present whereabouts unknown), a watercolour also exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in 1910.28Goupil Gallery Salon 1910, London, October–December 1910, no. 221; Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, no. 43. Proctor’s title seems unusual in her oeuvre, but in fact derives from the song ‘Yip-i-addy-i-ay’ from the very popular musical Our Miss Gibbs, which premièred at the Gaiety Theatre in London in 1910. ‘Yip-i-addy-i-ay’ was described as ‘boisterous’ and ‘inane’ by theatre critics, but no doubt it was the sheer gaiety of the song and the exquisite costuming of the production – ‘a gorgeous feast for the eye’29B. Findon, ‘The Romance of a Shop Girl’, Play Pictorial, vol. 13, no. 80, [1910], p. 103. – which attracted Proctor. Our Miss Gibbs seems a very appropriate subject for the artist for what it said about trends in contemporary fashion – for it was full of women in Edwardian dress and girls in Pierrot costumes. Indeed, the costumes at the Gaiety Theatre received their own write-up in the Play Pictorial, which noted that the feminine world had ‘lately learned to look for colour schemes and similar suggestions from the costume plays at the Gaiety’.30R. E. Noble, ‘Fashions: Behind the Footlights at the Gaiety Theatre’, Play Pictorial, vol. 13, no. 80, [1910], p. 126. 

There can be no doubt that by 1910 Proctor was already keenly aware of the most up-to-date developments in fashion: a fan titled ‘1910 was shown at the Goupil Gallery Salon that year,31Goupil Gallery Salon 1910, October–December 1910, no. 265. and Fashions in 1910 – also a fan and almost certainly the same work – was included in the joint exhibition at the Goupil Gallery in 1911.32Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, no. 41. ‘1910’, now in a private collection in Sydney, is one of the few works from this period to be both signed and dated by the artist, perhaps reflecting Proctor’s sense of the importance of locating her image in its precise historical context. My assertion that ‘1910’ and Fashions in 1910 are one and the same is based in part on Proctor’s tendency to rename her works as more fitting titles suggested themselves (see note 42 below). The controversy in the fashion world of 1910 was the hobble skirt, introduced by the French couturier Paul Poiret (1879–1943); this new garment narrowed the silhouette of the dress considerably and permitted the wearer to take small steps only.33See J. Mulvagh, Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion, London, 1988, p. 17. This innovation is the subject of Proctor’s ‘1910’, which features two women, one seated and one standing on a terrace, showing the new silhouette. So up-to-the-minute was Proctor’s image that one reviewer wrote of Fashions in 1910: ‘[It] should some day be treasured, as are similar relics of a bygone age’.34‘Art’, Truth, no. 1787, 29 March 1911, p. 871. 

Essentially a woman’s item of fashion, the fan was a fashionable shape in works by the circle of artists around Charles Conder (1868–1909), who was the prime exponent of this branch of painting in England at the turn of the century.35The fan designs by these artists were most often not mounted on sticks, but were presented as unmounted works of art – as opposed to the fans made by painters working for fan-making companies. A number of artists whom Proctor admired and met experimented with the fan, among them Mary Davis, Charles Shannon and Frank Brangwyn. The challenge of working within this difficult shape would have appealed to Proctor, who had previously responded to the limitations inherent in the designing of bookplates and book covers. Working on silk, with its special qualities, would likewise have appealed, for the artist was always ready to explore new media. Her interest in the fan shape may also have been due in part to Gerald Moira, for whose work Proctor had earlier expressed admiration,36Proctor letter, 20 November [1903], Proctor’s knowledge of Moira’s work may have stemmed from her reading a two-part article in the Studio (see ‘Some Decorations for a Library. By Gerald Moira and F. Lynn Jenkins’, Studio, vol. XIII, no. 65, August 1898, pp. 186–91; vol. XIII, no. 66, September 1898, pp. 240–5). Moira was teaching at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington at the time Proctor wrote of him to Mrs Irvine (see Watkins, p. 18). and under whom she may then have been studying.37There is only one published reference to Proctor’s having studied under Moira (see ‘Proctor, Thea’, in Society of Artists Book 1942, Sydney, 1942, p. 82). 

For over twenty years Proctor continued to paint fans and while not claiming fan painting as her first love she nevertheless derived immense aesthetic pleasure from the exercise. During both her stays in London, the fan was an important part of her oeuvre. 

After the hobble skirt, Paul Poiret’s next controversial contribution to couture was the jupe-culotte.38Mulvagh, p. 19, suggests that the jupe-culotte was introduced by Poiret, Bourniche and Margaine Lacroix, while books on Poiret credit it to him alone. Also known as the trouser skirt or harem skirt, the jupe-culotte was a long skirt, sometimes split at the sides to reveal what lay underneath – full-length trousers of chiffon or satin, drawn in at the ankles. The garment was a sensation, considered by some to be vulgar and ugly, acknowledged by others as ‘an advance towards a practical and hygienic form of dress’.39‘The Changing Mode: The “Jupe-Culotte”’, Times, 20 March 1911, p. 11. Even the suffragette newspaper Votes for Women did not know what to make of it: 

Well, the question of the moment – the modistic moment I mean, of course – is naturally the jupe culotte. You may study it at any dress atelier, you may meet it not only in Paris, but also in the Park … Models of it (or should one say ‘them’?) vary immensely. Some wear the innocent air of an attenuated skirt, others give a welcome freedom of motion with an equalising loss of grace. Frankly, I refuse to prophesy concerning the jupe culotte. For the moment it is ‘on the knees of the gods’ – who knows whether or no it will descend to ours!40M. W., ‘A Causerie of Fashion’, Votes for Women, vol. IV, no. 150, 31 March 191 1, p. 425. 

Launched in Paris in January 1911, the jupe-culotte appeared in a watercolour by Proctor exhibited at the New English Art Club in the summer of that year, Some ghosts and the jupe-culotte.41This work was shown in the Summer 45th Exhibition, New English Art Club, London, 1911, no 10. It was also exhibited in the Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1911, no. 1780. A fan, ‘1860 and the jupe culotte’, was shown by the artist at the Goupil Gallery Salon in November 1911.42Goupil Gallery Salon 1911, London, November–December 1911, no. 245. Two works titled 1860 and the jupes culottes were exhibited in Melbourne in 1913 (An Exhibition of Water Colours by Miss Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society’s Room, Melbourne, September 1913, nos 28, 29). One of these (no. 29) was noted in the exhibition catalogue as having been shown at the New English Art Club in 1911, and may therefore be identified with Some ghosts and the jupe-culotte. A Sketch for jupes culottes fan was also exhibited in 1913 in Melbourne (no. 34). Once again, Proctor’s subject matter reflected her keen awareness of the most current of fashion trends. 

Two versions of the jupe-culotte fan – with differences in the composition as well as in the colouring – are known, and it may be that one of them is the fan exhibited in 1910. One design, on silk, 1860 and the jupes culottes, shows two women, typically on a terrace, parading their ‘pantaloons’ as if on a stage, before an audience of crinolined ladies and one top-hatted gentleman adjusting his monocle.43This work was exhibited, with the incorrect title ‘Idyllic Scene’, in 1987 (see Fine Australian Paintings (sale cat.), William S. Ellenden, Sydney, 11 August 1987, cat. no. 56, repr). The Ellenden catalogue does not list dimensions for this work. The colours in 1860 and the jupes culottes are similar to those in Proctor’s earlier fans, although stronger, and the brushwork is less free and lively. The other version of this image, on paper, was bought by the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1914 (fig. 1).44In the first week of July 1914, before returning to London later that month, Proctor exhibited in Adelaide at the Institute Buildings, North Terrace (catalogue not sighted). During the last week of June, she was staying at the Queen Adelaide Club (see ‘Social: An Australian Woman Artist’, Observer, Adelaide, 27 June 1914, p. 34; ‘The Ladies: Miss Proctor’s Art Exhibition’, Observer, Adelaide, 11 July 1914, p. 7). In this latter work, only a single figure en jupe-culotte parades before the crinolined ladies, who are now grouped together in different positions and different-coloured clothes – the male figure in this example has both hands raised to show his concern about the new fashion. 

Proctor exhibited equally as many watercolours as fan designs, and those dating from this period that have been viewed by the author are for the most part similar in handling to the 1860 and the jupe culotte fan in South Australia (known there as 1860 and the jupes culottes).45For example: (The ball), c. 1908–09, watercolour and body colour on paper, 39.0 x 47.0 cm (Australian and European Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture (sale cat.), Christie’s, Melbourne, 18 April 1994, cat. no. 43, repr.); The dance, 1910, watercolour and gouache on paper, 23.6 x 23.0 cm, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney; Morning in the park, c.1911–12, watercolour and gouache on paper, 48.0 x 52.5 cm, private collection, Sydney. However, a watercolour in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, In Hyde Park, c. 1911, is much fresher in its colouring and more free in its handling (fig. 2). Two works titled Sketch in Hyde Park, one of them perhaps the watercolour now in Melbourne, were exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in March 1911 and, interestingly, the reviewer for the Onlooker wrote of this exhibition: 

I should like to see some more serious work in a bolder style, as the two sketches in Hyde Park show a power of which the unfavourable conditions of fan painting normally prevent an adequate display.46W. Meyer, ‘Round the Galleries’, Onlooker (A Social View of Life), vol. XXIII, no. 545, 25 March 1911, p. 593. In Hyde Park was initially known at the National Gallery of Victoria as ‘Afternoon in the Bois’ but was later retitled. Two works titled In Hyde Park, one of them presumably the National Gallery of Victoria’s version, were first exhibited in March 1911 (Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, nos 64, 68); both versions are likely to have been painted in the summer of 1910. Two works showing scenes in Hyde Park, Summer in Hyde Park and Sketch in Hyde Park, were exhibited in Proctor’s solo show in Melbourne in 1913 (An Exhibition of Water Colours by Miss Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society’s Room, September 1913, nos 13, 14), and In Hyde Park is likely to be one of these. A work titled Hyde Park was also exhibited in Proctor’s solo show in Melbourne in 1924 (Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings and Lithographs by Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society Gallery, Melbourne, July 1924, no. 6). Describing this picture, the Age said: ‘[T]he eye is caught by the graceful figure, in a large hat, the sunshade throwing a luminous shadow over the figure that accentuates the burning sunshine among the lawns and trees of the background’ (‘Art Notes: The Work of Miss Thea Proctor’, Age, Melbourne, 3 July 1924, p. 12). 

Only basic outlines have been sketched in In Hyde Park, and the work has been composed almost entirely with the brush laden with colour, giving the impression of having been sketched directly from nature – which may be what the reviewer means by ‘bolder’. Most of Proctor’s watercolours from this period feature indoor scenes and lack the spontaneity of In Hyde Park – even Morning in the park, c.1911–12 (private collection, Sydney), another outdoor scene, is controlled and posed as if it were a stage setting.47See Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November 1912, p. 5, repr. The National Gallery of Victoria owns a figure study of a woman standing in the same pose as one of the women in Morning in the park, although the figure is reversed and the details differ slightly. The existence of this drawing (Figure study, c.1911–12, pencil on paper, 34.3 x 26.4 cm (National Gallery of Victoria, acc. no. 1068)) suggests that Morning in the park, a more highly finished work than In Hyde Park, was most likely worked up and completed in the studio. In an interview in Adelaide in 1914, Proctor indicated that though the majority of her works were painted indoors an artist ‘must do [some outdoor work] to keep in touch with Nature [as] it does not do to paint always from imagination’.48‘Social: An Australian Woman Artist’, p. 34. 

While not quite as specific as ‘1910’ and both versions of 1860 and the jupe culotte, In Hyde Park is another example of the artist responding to contemporary fashion. The large hat, and the use of black as a contrast in the gloves and wrap, even in summer months, reflect what were then current trends.49See ‘The Choice of Colour in Dress’, Times, 13 March 1911, p. 10; Mulvagh, pp. 13–18. It might equally be argued that the black contrasts of the gloves and wrap recall aspects of eighteenth-century fashion,50Margaret Maynard, letter to the author, 10 September 1995. but, while this is no doubt true enough, such apparent ‘anachronisms’ were in fact part of a highly contemporary approach to dress in Edwardian England. This approach was characterised in part by a great fondness for ‘fancy dress’, reflected not only in the wearing of items of clothing from bygone eras, but also in the prevailing obsession with fancy-dress balls. These events featured prominently on the social calendars of the 1890s and well into the twentieth century.51This interest is reflected in the titles of two works by Proctor: The fancy dress ball, 1908; The Masqueraders / Le Bal masqué, 1909. According to the Times, this revival of interest in fancy-dress balls was due not only to ‘the motley of some fantastic dress but [to] the spirit of gaiety which that dress typifies’.52‘Fancy Dresses’, Times, 11 December 1911, p. 12. The ‘best’ costumes were those that showed evidence of thought or originality, and reflected the personality of the wearer. 

In the case of In Hyde Park, a further resonance might also be detected. For there is in the details of the costume a degree of theatricality that might be directly linked to Proctor’s experience of the theatre, which reflected both the contemporary and the ‘fancy’ threads of Edwardian dress.53The following observation, made in 1916 in reference to Isobel Gloag (1865–1917), a British painter in oils of portraits, figures and still life, might reflect a contemporary attitude, among artists at least, towards dress: ‘[In The yellow coat] there is no historical evocation, but rather a kind of fin de siècle modishness, even a little touch of contemporary eccentricity’ (A. Reddie, ‘Paintings of Miss I. L. Gloag, R.O.I.’, Studio, vol. 67, no. 275, February 1916, ρ 37). Interestingly, Gloag’s work, like Proctor’s, was collected by Edmund Davis; she too took ‘1860’ as a subject in her work, in 1912 (Reddie, p. 37, repr. p. 35), and exhibited at a number of the same venues as Proctor, and both artists studied at the St John’s Wood Art School (see L. Lambourne & J. Hamilton, British Watercolours in the Victoria and Albert Museum: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the National Collection, London, 1980, p. 152). Proctor had an eye for such detail and nuance,54This is indicated by published descriptions of two unlocated works from this period: A summer morning (‘charming in its light, dainty effect and original grouping of figures. The note of black in the riding habit is a clever contrast’ (British Australasian, 6 May 1909, p. 17)); and On the sands (‘fine in quality, particularly in the relation of the background to the dark mantle’ (British Australasian, 14 July 1910, p. 11)). and put her skills to use in a practical way on a number of occasions by designing costumes for stage productions.55Both Proctor and Amy Lambert worked on costumes for the ‘Episodes’ – a program of entertainment for visiting Australian Commonwealth and State parliamentarians, held at the Imperial Institute in London on 30 May 1911; Proctor herself took the part of one of the Federated States (see A. Lambert, G. W. Lambert, A.R.A.: Thirty Years of an Artist’s Life, Sydney, 1977, p. 50). In Sydney in 1913 Proctor also designed costumes for and performed in A Mask, an allegorical play written by Christopher Brennan and John Le Gay Brereton to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the Women’s College at the University of Sydney. The Sydney Mail noted that ‘special pains … had been taken with the dresses. They were true to detail, and looked most effective beneath the lights’ (‘The Women’s College: A Novel Entertainment’, Sydney Mail, 27 August 1913, p. 19). Proctor took the part of Madame de Pompadour in A Mask, her costume closely modelled on that worn by the female figure in her work The dance of 1910, now in the S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney (for a photograph of Proctor in this role, see ‘The Women’s College’, p. 19). Her interest in the theatrical nature of fashion was certainly fuelled by her experience of the costume plays at the Gaiety Theatre and elsewhere, and also by the social life of artistic Chelsea where she had been living since her mother’s departure for Australia. There is also evidence that she painted models in fancy dress. The eighteenth-century coat, a pencil drawing of 1911 in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, depicts Dorothy Vernon, a model also used by George Lambert and by George Coates, in historic costume (fig. 3).56Dorothy Vernon is the subject of two oil paintings by Lambert at the Art Gallery of New South Wales: Portrait of a lady (the dancer) (1911) and Ballet dancer in costume (1911). She is also the subject of Lambert’s A dancer entertains Jane and some portrait painters (1911) at the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay (see The Art of George W. Lambert, A.R.A., Sydney, 1924, pl. 48). Dr Anne Gray confirmed the identity of the sitter for me. For the identification of the dancer in A dancer entertains Jane and some portrait painters, see W. Β Dalley, ‘Fragments of Chelsea’, Art in Australia, vol. 3, no. 33, August–September 1930, n.p. George Coates also painted a portrait of ‘Miss Vernon, the friend of the Connards, a clever professional dancer, in a genuine old Spanish costume of black lace over a flower-embroidered, flounced crinoline – a dress which was afterwards bought and used by Pavlova. This he called “The Spanish Dancer”’ (D. M. Coates, George Coates: His Art and His Life, London, 1937, p. 68, repr. opp. p. 208). Vernon modelled for Proctor in her capacity as a dancer, and also in the fancy costumes that fascinated many Chelsea artists. 

Proctor’s interest in contemporary fashion, and in the relationship between fashion and art, may have stemmed in part from the influence of her old Australian teacher Julian Ashton, who had ‘a strong feeling for fashion’.57M. Maynard, ‘Julian Ashton’s Spring; A Case for Australian Dress Studies’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 4, 1985, p. 53, repr. p. 50. Maynard’s analysis of Ashton’s painting Spring, 1889 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), reveals that like Proctor he was in tune with current fashion trends and was against ‘what he called the painting of bygone times’.58ibid. 

Proctor’s interest in fashion and theatre continued developing during her second long residence in London, contributing to what has been perceived as her unique aesthetic and attitude to dress. As has already been shown, however, her fascination with theatre and costume was reflected in her work considerably earlier than is indicated by the existing literature. A detailed examination of Proctor’s imagery of the 1920s is beyond the scope of this article; however, a brief consideration of a few points relating to contemporary fashion will demonstrate the way in which an understanding of Proctor’s attitude towards dress and fashion can be used to date her work. The fan design Spring, for example, has recently been erroneously dated to the 1920s. The theatricality of the scene has been noted, due to the framing curtain and the curious inclusion of ‘top hats’ on the women – ‘the only hints of the masculine’.59J. Kerr (ed.), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book – 500 Works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955, Roseville East, NSW, 1995, p. 46. The term ‘strange archaism of dress’ has also been used.60ibid. It should be pointed out, however, that in 1915 the fascination with the crinoline had returned in some designers’ work, so that the costumes in Spring represent not an ‘archaism’ but a contemporary revival; the battle of the silhouettes would continue for years to come.61See, for example, ‘Crinolines? Straight Lines’, The Queen, 27 December 1919, p. 846: ‘The characteristic of winter dresses this year has been diversity of style. Shall the silhouette of the summer season adopt one definite line? The variety of the latest models from Lanvin, Paquin, Premet, and Redfern do not appear to indicate this’. It should also be said that ’mannish’ hats became popular during the later war years (1917–18) and those featured in Proctor’s Spring would not have looked out of place in the latest Vogues.62See Mulvagh, p. 41. Neither was the cape unusual for this period. These details of costume make a date of around 1919 seem more probable for this fan,63The evidence mounts when we consider that a fan titled Spring was first exhibited by Proctor in London in 1919 (Goupil Gallery Salon 1919, London, November–December 1919, no. 278). A preliminary sketch of this subject appears in the early pages of a sketchbook now in the possession of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the other drawings in the first section of this sketchbook all refer to works exhibited prior to 1921. in which the varying styles reflect both current fashion trends and the artist’s own developing sense that dress should express personality and originality. 

Although recent discussions of Proctor have acknowledged her important role in (re)defining the image/position of women in 1920s Sydney,64See M. Mackay, ‘Almost Dancing: Thea Proctor and the Modern Woman’, in Wallflowers and Witches: Women and Culture in Australia 1910–1945, ed. M. Dever, St Lucia, Qld, 1994, pp. 26–37; R. Holden, Cover Up: The Art of Magazine Covers in Australia, Rydalmere, NSW, 1995, pp. 91–6. largely through her covers for The Home magazine and the example of her own life as a career woman, a misleading image of the artist persists. Holden has discussed Proctor’s striking representations of the 1920s new woman and has justly nominated her Home cover for March 1923 as an icon of the flapper image.65He correctly points out too that the low hemline is up-to-date for the early 1920s, ‘[c]ontrary to popular recreations’ (Holden, p. 95). Yet he sees her production of such an image as ironic, arguing that she preferred a late-nineteenth-century look: ‘When we remember that Proctor was born in 1879, this predilection for crinolines, parasols and bonnets becomes an obvious part of her formative upbringing’.66Holden, p. 91. To support this interpretation, the author reproduces George Lambert’s 1903 portrait of the artist as an elegant Edwardian (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). 

But this portrayal of an elegant young Edwardian woman cannot be said to typify Proctor’s personal style throughout her life. What Lambert’s portrait does say about Proctor is that as early as 1903 she was already choosing to wear the most up-to-the-minute fashion. This awareness of what was most current and stylish, together with a remarkable ability to adapt current trends to her own highly personal sense of style, would inform Proctor’s approach to dress throughout her life. A contemporary cartoon of the artist at an exhibition opening in 1926, for example, shows her tall, slim and elegantly attired in a clinging gown that captures the essence of her later style in dress and design.67‘Sydney s’amuse’, The Home, Sydney, 1 July 1926, p. 40 (for a reproduction of Mahdi McCrae’s cartoon, see Kerr, ρ 433). The slim silhouette of the gown is contemporary, yet its line is elongated, modified according to the artist’s sense of what most became her. The small brim of her hat sits at fashionable eye-level, while the height of the hat is decidedly idiosyncratic – ‘Miss Thea Proctor is one of the few women in Sydney who can wear a high postillion-crowned hat with success’.68Sun, Sydney, 1 August 1926, p. 24. 

Thea Proctor cut a dash in the artistic and social life of Sydney in the 1920s,69She dressed, for example, in ‘moonlight blue and gold brocade’ for the Women’s Hospital Ball in 1923 (Sunday Times, Sydney, 27 May 1923, p. 15). It is in the context of Proctor’s fascination with fancy dress that we should understand her appearance as a mid-Victorian lady at a number of Artists’ Balls in Sydney during this period. and throughout her career she painted figures in both contemporary and fancy dress as well as in theatrical costume and ballet dress. She was always receptive to innovation, and her attitude to ‘the past’ was flexible and very much rooted in the present. Always stylish, Proctor understood during her poorer days in London the importance of dress beyond its functional applications, and she carried these lessons through into her art and her life. 

 

Helen Morgan, Department of Fine Arts, University of Melbourne (in 1996).

Acknowledgements 

I would like to thank Mrs Thea Waddell for her invaluable assistance, encouragement and friendship during my research into Thea Proctor. I would also like to thank Ms Dana Rowan for her help during the editing of this article. 

 

Notes 

1              ‘Modifying the Mode by Selecting the Suitable Century’, The Home, Sydney, 1 March 1926, p. 22. 

2              ibid. 

3              Only Minchin and Butler have dealt with this period, providing a useful starting point (J. Minchin, ‘Thea Proctor: A Biography’, in C. Deutscher, J. Minchin & R Butler, Thea Proctor: The Prints, Sydney, 1980, pp 6–13; R. Butler, ‘The Prints’, in Deutscher, Minchin & Butler, pp. 14–21). 

4              Alethea is the correct spelling of Proctor’s first name, which is often misspelt in auction catalogues as ‘Althea’. 

5              Thea Waddell, interview with the author, Sydney, 11 August 1993. 

6              The prize was a copy of E. P. Roe’s book Barriers Burned Away, inscribed to Proctor on the flyleaf. The book is now in the possession of the artist’s niece Thea Bryant in Sydney. 

7              D. Dysart, Julian Ashton: Essay on the Artist, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1981, p. 24. 

8              Such imagery was very popular with British artists, both male and female, at this time (see J Christian (ed), The Last Romantics: The Romantic Tradition in British Art – Burne-Jones to Stanley Spencer (exh. cat.), Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1989). The present whereabouts of the four works referred to here are unknown. 

9              See A. Brothers, A Studio Portrait: The Marketing of Art and Taste 1893–1918, Melbourne, 1993, ch 7. 

10           For references to the poster movement in the Studio, see ‘Studio-Talk’, vol. VII, no. 37, April 1896, p. 172, C. White, ‘The Posters of Louis Rhead’, vol. VIII, no. 41, August 1896, pp. 156–61. Other relevant articles include C. H. B. Quennell, ‘The Decoration of a Commonplace Room’, vol. X, no. 47, February 1897, pp. 37–40; M. Armour, ‘Mural Decoration in Scotland: Part 1’, vol. X, no. 48, March 1897, pp. 100–6; G. White, ‘The Work of Byam Shaw’, vol. X, no. 50, May 1897, pp. 209–21; and his ‘Some Glasgow Designers and Their Work: Part IV’, vol. XIII, no. 59, February 1898, pp 12–25. 

11           For early reproductions of Proctor’s work, see Australian Magazine, 30 March 1899, p. 56; 29 April 1899, p. 129; 30 May 1899, pp. 196, 198; 17 August 1899, pp. 327, 349, 353; 18 September 1899, pp. 370, 451 (only six issues of this magazine were published, in 1899). Works reproduced in catalogues were Birds of a Feather (Society of Artists Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1901, cat. no. 89); and The Tryst (Royal Art Society of New South Wales Exhibition (exh. cat.), Sydney, 1902, cat. no. 40). 

12           A letter written shortly after her arrival in London is full of references to artists that Proctor noted she had read about previously in the Studio (Thea Proctor, letter to Mrs Irvine, 20 November [1903], National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). Mrs Irvine, of Sydney, was presumably married to Robert F. Irvine (1861–1941), economist, who had planned the short-lived Australian Magazine, to which Proctor contributed in 1899. 

13           A. J. Daplyn, ‘Art Notes’, Australasian Art Review, 1 May 1899, p. 14. 

14           Waddell interview. 

15           This fact she communicated enthusiastically to Mrs Irvine (Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]). 

16           Olga Morgan exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1897 till 1904, ceasing to exhibit in London in 1906; Proctor had read about her in the Studio (Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]), and it is interesting to note that Morgan had been in Sydney in 1902. Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (1872–1945) studied at the Royal Academy Schools and worked in a Pre-Raphaelite manner, as a book illustrator and as a painter in oils and watercolours; Proctor may have read about her in the Studio in 1898 and 1901 (see E. B. S., ‘Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale: Designer and Illustrator’, Studio, vol. XII, no. 60, March 1898, pp. 103–8; W. S. Sparrow, ‘On Some Watercolour Pictures by Miss Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale’, Studio, vol. XXIII, no. 99, June 1901, pp. 31-44). For Gerald Moira, see H. Watkins, The Art of Gerald Moira, London, [1922]. 

17           The Halfords were an expatriate Australian family and appear in a number of paintings and drawings by George Lambert. They are probably the subject of his drawing The three sisters, 1906 (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane). An oil portrait by Lambert of Amy Halford was exhibited at the International Society in London in 1908. For the Halford sisters, see A. Gray, in H. Kolenberg & A. Gray, George Lambert 1873–1930: Drawings (exh. cat.), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1993, cat. no. 24. 

18           Proctor letter, 20 November [1903]. 

19           Proctor would stay in Sydney for almost two years, leaving to return to England in July 1914. She then remained abroad for another seven years before returning permanently to Australia in September 1921. 

20           Waddell interview. 

21           ‘Our Artists Abroad: A Chat with Arthur Streeton’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1906, p. 7. 

22           ‘See Our Australian Artists’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1906, p. 6. 

23           Waddell interview. 

24           See Strand, vol. 29, no. 172, April 1905, pp. 409, 411–13. Cuttings from the magazine were among Thea Proctor’s personal effects when she died, and are now in the possession of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Thea Proctor file (Print Room). The paintings by Lambert in which Proctor appears include Lotty and the lady, 1906 (National Gallery of Victoria), The bathers, 1907 (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide), The mother, 1907 (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane), The blue hat, 1909 (Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth), and The sonnet (1907) (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). 

25           During this period, Proctor won a student prize of £30, and spent the whole sum on a pair of antique Spanish gold earrings. 

26           Waddell interview. 

27           Exhibition of Works of Patrick W. Adam, R.S.A., J. C. W. Cossaar, Arthur Friedenson, R. Givelo Goodman, Alexander Jamieson, Thea Proctor, Douglas Wells, Goupil Gallery, London, March–April 1911. 

28           Goupil Gallery Salon 1910, London, October–December 1910, no. 221; Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, no. 43. 

29           B. Findon, ‘The Romance of a Shop Girl’, Play Pictorial, vol. 13, no. 80, [1910], p. 103. 

30           R. E. Noble, ‘Fashions: Behind the Footlights at the Gaiety Theatre’, Play Pictorial, vol. 13, no. 80, [1910], p. 126. 

31           Goupil Gallery Salon 1910, October–December 1910, no. 265. 

32           Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, no. 41. ‘1910’, now in a private collection in Sydney, is one of the few works from this period to be both signed and dated by the artist, perhaps reflecting Proctor’s sense of the importance of locating her image in its precise historical context. My assertion that ‘1910’ and Fashions in 1910 are one and the same is based in part on Proctor’s tendency to rename her works as more fitting titles suggested themselves (see note 42 below). 

33           See J. Mulvagh, Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion, London, 1988, p. 17. 

34           ‘Art’, Truth, no. 1787, 29 March 1911, p. 871. 

35           The fan designs by these artists were most often not mounted on sticks, but were presented as unmounted works of art – as opposed to the fans made by painters working for fan-making companies. 

36           Proctor letter, 20 November [1903], Proctor’s knowledge of Moira’s work may have stemmed from her reading a two-part article in the Studio (see ‘Some Decorations for a Library. By Gerald Moira and F. Lynn Jenkins’, Studio, vol. XIII, no. 65, August 1898, pp. 186–91; vol. XIII, no. 66, September 1898, pp. 240–5). Moira was teaching at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington at the time Proctor wrote of him to Mrs Irvine (see Watkins, p. 18).

37           There is only one published reference to Proctor’s having studied under Moira (see ‘Proctor, Thea’, in Society of Artists Book 1942, Sydney, 1942, p. 82). 

38           Mulvagh, p. 19, suggests that the jupe-culotte was introduced by Poiret, Bourniche and Margaine Lacroix, while books on Poiret credit it to him alone. 

39           ‘The Changing Mode: The “Jupe-Culotte”’, Times, 20 March 1911, p. 11. 

40           M. W., ‘A Causerie of Fashion’, Votes for Women, vol. IV, no. 150, 31 March 191 1, p. 425. 

41           This work was shown in the Summer 45th Exhibition, New English Art Club, London, 1911, no 10. It was also exhibited in the Autumn Exhibition, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1911, no. 1780. 

42           Goupil Gallery Salon 1911, London, November–December 1911, no. 245. Two works titled 1860 and the jupes culottes were exhibited in Melbourne in 1913 (An Exhibition of Water Colours by Miss Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society’s Room, Melbourne, September 1913, nos 28, 29). One of these (no. 29) was noted in the exhibition catalogue as having been shown at the New English Art Club in 1911, and may therefore be identified with Some ghosts and the jupe-culotte. A Sketch for jupes culottes fan was also exhibited in 1913 in Melbourne (no. 34). 

43           This work was exhibited, with the incorrect title ‘Idyllic Scene’, in 1987 (see Fine Australian Paintings (sale cat.), William S. Ellenden, Sydney, 11 August 1987, cat. no. 56, repr). The Ellenden catalogue does not list dimensions for this work. 

44           In the first week of July 1914, before returning to London later that month, Proctor exhibited in Adelaide at the Institute Buildings, North Terrace (catalogue not sighted). During the last week of June, she was staying at the Queen Adelaide Club (see ‘Social: An Australian Woman Artist’, Observer, Adelaide, 27 June 1914, p. 34; ‘The Ladies: Miss Proctor’s Art Exhibition’, Observer, Adelaide, 11 July 1914, p. 7). 

45           For example: (The ball), c. 1908–09, watercolour and body colour on paper, 39.0 x 47.0 cm (Australian and European Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture (sale cat.), Christie’s, Melbourne, 18 April 1994, cat. no. 43, repr.); The dance, 1910, watercolour and gouache on paper, 23.6 x 23.0 cm, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney; Morning in the park, c.1911–12, watercolour and gouache on paper, 48.0 x 52.5 cm, private collection, Sydney. 

46           W. Meyer, ‘Round the Galleries’, Onlooker (A Social View of Life), vol. XXIII, no. 545, 25 March 1911, p. 593. In Hyde Park was initially known at the National Gallery of Victoria as ‘Afternoon in the Bois’ but was later retitled. Two works titled In Hyde Park, one of them presumably the National Gallery of Victoria’s version, were first exhibited in March 1911 (Exhibition of Works …, Goupil Gallery, March–April 1911, nos 64, 68); both versions are likely to have been painted in the summer of 1910. Two works showing scenes in Hyde Park, Summer in Hyde Park and Sketch in Hyde Park, were exhibited in Proctor’s solo show in Melbourne in 1913 (An Exhibition of Water Colours by Miss Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society’s Room, September 1913, nos 13, 14), and In Hyde Park is likely to be one of these. A work titled Hyde Park was also exhibited in Proctor’s solo show in Melbourne in 1924 (Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings and Lithographs by Thea Proctor, Fine Art Society Gallery, Melbourne, July 1924, no. 6). Describing this picture, the Age said: ‘[T]he eye is caught by the graceful figure, in a large hat, the sunshade throwing a luminous shadow over the figure that accentuates the burning sunshine among the lawns and trees of the background’ (‘Art Notes: The Work of Miss Thea Proctor’, Age, Melbourne, 3 July 1924, p. 12). 

47           See Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November 1912, p. 5, repr. The National Gallery of Victoria owns a figure study of a woman standing in the same pose as one of the women in Morning in the park, although the figure is reversed and the details differ slightly. The existence of this drawing (Figure study, c.1911–12, pencil on paper, 34.3 x 26.4 cm (National Gallery of Victoria, acc. no. 1068)) suggests that Morning in the park, a more highly finished work than In Hyde Park, was most likely worked up and completed in the studio. 

48           ‘Social: An Australian Woman Artist’, p. 34. 

49           See ‘The Choice of Colour in Dress’, Times, 13 March 1911, p. 10; Mulvagh, pp. 13–18. 

50           Margaret Maynard, letter to the author, 10 September 1995. 

51           This interest is reflected in the titles of two works by Proctor: The fancy dress ball, 1908; The Masqueraders / Le Bal masqué, 1909. 

52           ‘Fancy Dresses’, Times, 11 December 1911, p. 12. 

53           The following observation, made in 1916 in reference to Isobel Gloag (1865–1917), a British painter in oils of portraits, figures and still life, might reflect a contemporary attitude, among artists at least, towards dress: ‘[In The yellow coat] there is no historical evocation, but rather a kind of fin de siècle modishness, even a little touch of contemporary eccentricity’ (A. Reddie, ‘Paintings of Miss I. L. Gloag, R.O.I.’, Studio, vol. 67, no. 275, February 1916, ρ 37). Interestingly, Gloag’s work, like Proctor’s, was collected by Edmund Davis; she too took ‘1860’ as a subject in her work, in 1912 (Reddie, p. 37, repr. p. 35), and exhibited at a number of the same venues as Proctor, and both artists studied at the St John’s Wood Art School (see L. Lambourne & J. Hamilton, British Watercolours in the Victoria and Albert Museum: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the National Collection, London, 1980, p. 152). 

54           This is indicated by published descriptions of two unlocated works from this period: A summer morning (‘charming in its light, dainty effect and original grouping of figures. The note of black in the riding habit is a clever contrast’ (British Australasian, 6 May 1909, p. 17)); and On the sands (‘fine in quality, particularly in the relation of the background to the dark mantle’ (British Australasian, 14 July 1910, p. 11)). 

55           Both Proctor and Amy Lambert worked on costumes for the ‘Episodes’ – a program of entertainment for visiting Australian Commonwealth and State parliamentarians, held at the Imperial Institute in London on 30 May 1911; Proctor herself took the part of one of the Federated States (see A. Lambert, G. W. Lambert, A.R.A.: Thirty Years of an Artist’s Life, Sydney, 1977, p. 50). In Sydney in 1913 Proctor also designed costumes for and performed in A Mask, an allegorical play written by Christopher Brennan and John Le Gay Brereton to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the Women’s College at the University of Sydney. The Sydney Mail noted that ‘special pains … had been taken with the dresses. They were true to detail, and looked most effective beneath the lights’ (‘The Women’s College: A Novel Entertainment’, Sydney Mail, 27 August 1913, p. 19). Proctor took the part of Madame de Pompadour in A Mask, her costume closely modelled on that worn by the female figure in her work The dance of 1910, now in the S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney (for a photograph of Proctor in this role, see ‘The Women’s College’, p. 19). 

56           Dorothy Vernon is the subject of two oil paintings by Lambert at the Art Gallery of New South Wales: Portrait of a lady (the dancer) (1911) and Ballet dancer in costume (1911). She is also the subject of Lambert’s A dancer entertains Jane and some portrait painters (1911) at the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay (see The Art of George W. Lambert, A.R.A., Sydney, 1924, pl. 48). Dr Anne Gray confirmed the identity of the sitter for me. For the identification of the dancer in A dancer entertains Jane and some portrait painters, see W. Β Dalley, ‘Fragments of Chelsea’, Art in Australia, vol. 3, no. 33, August–September 1930, n.p. George Coates also painted a portrait of ‘Miss Vernon, the friend of the Connards, a clever professional dancer, in a genuine old Spanish costume of black lace over a flower-embroidered, flounced crinoline – a dress which was afterwards bought and used by Pavlova. This he called “The Spanish Dancer”’ (D. M. Coates, George Coates: His Art and His Life, London, 1937, p. 68, repr. opp. p. 208). 

57           M. Maynard, ‘Julian Ashton’s Spring; A Case for Australian Dress Studies’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 4, 1985, p. 53, repr. p. 50. 

58           ibid. 

59           J. Kerr (ed.), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book – 500 Works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955, Roseville East, NSW, 1995, p. 46. 

60           ibid. 

61           See, for example, ‘Crinolines? Straight Lines’, The Queen, 27 December 1919, p. 846: ‘The characteristic of winter dresses this year has been diversity of style. Shall the silhouette of the summer season adopt one definite line? The variety of the latest models from Lanvin, Paquin, Premet, and Redfern do not appear to indicate this’. 

62           See Mulvagh, p. 41. Neither was the cape unusual for this period. 

63           The evidence mounts when we consider that a fan titled Spring was first exhibited by Proctor in London in 1919 (Goupil Gallery Salon 1919, London, November–December 1919, no. 278). A preliminary sketch of this subject appears in the early pages of a sketchbook now in the possession of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the other drawings in the first section of this sketchbook all refer to works exhibited prior to 1921. 

64           See M. Mackay, ‘Almost Dancing: Thea Proctor and the Modern Woman’, in Wallflowers and Witches: Women and Culture in Australia 1910–1945, ed. M. Dever, St Lucia, Qld, 1994, pp. 26–37; R. Holden, Cover Up: The Art of Magazine Covers in Australia, Rydalmere, NSW, 1995, pp. 91–6. 

65           He correctly points out too that the low hemline is up-to-date for the early 1920s, ‘[c]ontrary to popular recreations’ (Holden, p. 95). 

66           Holden, p. 91. 

67           ‘Sydney s’amuse’, The Home, Sydney, 1 July 1926, p. 40 (for a reproduction of Mahdi McCrae’s cartoon, see Kerr, ρ 433). 

68           Sun, Sydney, 1 August 1926, p. 24. 

69           She dressed, for example, in ‘moonlight blue and gold brocade’ for the Women’s Hospital Ball in 1923 (Sunday Times, Sydney, 27 May 1923, p. 15). It is in the context of Proctor’s fascination with fancy dress that we should understand her appearance as a mid-Victorian lady at a number of Artists’ Balls in Sydney during this period.