The turn of the twentieth century was a crucial time for women artists in Australia. By 1900, women were a visible and active presence at the country’s major art schools, including at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, where female students far outnumbered their male peers. Works by women artists were hung at major exhibitions, women slowly began to enter the managing ranks of art societies, and travel to Europe to pursue further study and professional opportunities was commonplace. While prejudice about women’s capacity as artists remained widespread, more women gained recognition and respect as ‘professional artists’ in this period than ever before.
Modern Australian Women: Works from a Private Collection explores the lives and work of more than fifty artists who worked in Australia and abroad between 1880 and 1960. Almost all of these women were professional working artists, often supporting themselves and their families via the sale of art through public exhibitions, commercial galleries and private commissions. The works on display provide insight into women’s professional and economic strategies, as well as their role in introducing Post-impressionism and modernism into Australian art. These works were acquired over a period of forty years and reflect the singular vision and connoisseurship of their passionate collector.