SOPHIE STEFFANONI 1873 – 1906
About Windsor 1898
oil on canvas
25 x 45.5 cm
signed lower left: Sophie Steffanoni 1898
Sophie Steffanoni had been consigned to the ranks of overlooked women artists of the turn of the twentieth century until a cache of her artwork and correspondence were discovered in 1987, leading to an exhibition of her work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1996. Steffanoni was a professional artist, working for the family embroidery business where she was the main designer and receiving first prize at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago with her embroidered Australian Coat of Arms. She was a member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, regularly exhibiting between 1895 – 1903. Steffanoni took painting lessons with William Lister Lister, along with fellow students including Jessie Scarvell, where she would have been exposed to painting en plein air. Her work was praised by newspaper critics, with her painting Paradise Hill, Blackheath, illustrated in the Sydney Mail in 1903. Sadly, Steffanoni died of tuberculosis aged only thirty-two.
About Windsor, painted in 1898, presents a delightful bucolic farmyard scene, a cottage on a hill scattered with cascading flowers; misty purple hills in the background; bright green grass, shown in both sunlight and shadow and dotted with flowers; and a picturesque meandering track, framed by trees on either side of the canvas and leading the viewer’s eye to the gate and beyond, where a house can be seen with smoke curling from the chimney. On the way down the path, there are ducks and chickens, presided over by a loyal black dog. Farmyard scenes featuring chickens was a popular subject, also captured by Clara Southern, AME Bale, Girolamo Nerli, Frederick McCubbin, Walter Withers, John Ford Paterson, Sydney Long, Arthur Streeton.
The location of Windsor, New South Wales was a popular spot for artists with its picturesque farmyard buildings, orchard blossoms and expanse of fields, along with the river and mountains. Artists who are known to have painted there towards the end of the nineteenth century including Lister Lister and Julian Ashton, who contributed to a group of artists tasked with illustrating the area around the Hawkesbury River for The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia in the 1880s. Conder painted there in the spring of 1888 and other artists include the Collinridge brothers, Henry Fullwood, AJ Daplyn, Sydney Long and Arthur Streeton. Paintings of the Hawkesbury by Sophie’s father, Lewis Steffanoni, are in the family collection, so it is an area she would have known from a young age and one she may have visited later as a student of Ashton on a sketching trip.
About Windsor highlights Steffanoni’s skill in capturing the Australian light and atmosphere in a palette recognisable to the plein air painters of what can be broadly termed Australian Impressionism. The painting is likely to have been sold in her lifetime, as it was not included in the family discovery in 1987, which indicates it’s appeal and importance within her oeuvre, further evidenced by the inclusion in the Spring Exhibition with Joseph Brown in 1979.
(Portrait of a Young Woman) 1848
watercolour on paper
32 x 25.5 cm
Martha Chauncey commenced her artistic practice in London, with a portrait included in the Royal Academy in 1835. She married Captain Charles Berkeley in 1836, departing for Australia the same year, accompanied by her sister Theresa, settling into a home on South Terrace, Adelaide which had been built by politician John Hallett. Both sisters worked as professional artists, Theresa Walker recognised as Australia’s first female sculptor.
Martha Berkeley recorded the thriving municipality of Adelaide, its people and its landscapes. A number of her works are held in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia including Mount Lofty from the Terrace c.1840 and her watercolour view of North Terrace view looking east s east 1839 included in the series of 10 prints showing Adelaide 1837 – 1848, the rest based on S.T. Gill’s artwork. Other works of historic significance include The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838. A number of portraits depict her family, including herself, as well as important figures of the colonial Adelaide community.
This refined portrait sites the young woman against a balustrade, a typical device in much of Berkeley’s portraits. Her wealth and educated standing are apparent through her clothing, the book held in her hand and the swathe of material her laced elbow rests upon. She is set against the bright Australian light, a gum tree to her side and the mountain range in the background.
CONSTANCE STOKES 1906 – 1991
My Young Mother
oil on canvas
46 x 35.5 cm
Constance Stokes was a talented, ambitious artist who furthered her artistic studies in Europe and was celebrated as a successful artist in her time. Stokes studied at the Gallery School at the National Gallery of Victoria under Bernard Hall, where her natural talent shone and she was awarded the Travelling Scholarship in 1929 which enabled her to continue her studies at the Royal Academy in London and in Paris in the summer of 1931 with Andre Lhote who was to have a profound influence on her. She was included in the Twelve Australian Artists exhibition at Burlington Galleries, London in 1953 and represented at the 1953 Venice Biennale. Her portraits, usually of women, reveal her strong sense of design and use of colour.
HANS HEYSEN 1877 – 1968
(Red Cliffs on the Murray)
watercolour on paper
30 x 39.5 cm
signed lower right: HANS HEYSEN
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Closure over summer break: 22 December 2021 through to 1 February 2022.