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Studying the Moderns - Australians in France and England in the early 1900s

Andrea Hope,  2023 


"The Australian artist within the limits to which [they] usually confine themselves, reveals a sense of colour, an eye for affect, and an appreciation of the brightly beautiful that would of themselves redeem any work from being altogether commonplace. The reason why the greatest things are seldom attempted is to be found, partially at any rate, in the attitude of the Australian public. The local market for expensive and elaborate productions of an artistic kind is strictly limited. The man or woman who is confident of ability to produce the very finest work gravitates naturally to the arts centres of the old world. Everything invites [them] to try [their] fortune where rivalry is keenest, where instruction is of the best, where appreciative patrons are most numerous, where prizes are richest and most plentiful." 

Western Australian, October, 1905

Art Education in Australia in the late 1800s

In the late 1800s and early 1900s the key art schools in Australia were the National Gallery School in Victoria,  the Julian Ashton School in Sydney,  the Brisbane Technical College, South Australian School of Art and the Perth Technical College.

Generally training in these schools was traditional, naturalistic and representational, based on 19th Century conventions of academic training in Europe. However, there was a growing interest in painting 'en plein air' (outdoors) with the subject matter reflecting the developing interest in nationalism as Australia moved towards Federation. Julian Ashton was one teacher who was a strong advocate of plein air painting.

National Gallery School, Melbourne

However, Bernard Hall, who was the longest-serving director of the National Gallery of Victoria  and the head of the Gallery Art School from 1892 until his death in 1935, weilded enormous influence over local taste-making and the building of national art collections (largely through the Felton bequest). Hall had been trained in Britain and then Germany, and was committed to the classical academic tradition and 'instituted an austere regime of painting'.   see p 21 spowers and syme. However, he initiated a shift away from sentimental paintings towards decorative figure compositions and a sense of 'art for arts sake', with a more textured and broader handling of paint, but he had no interest in supporting modernist painting techniques. This approach limited options for development for students at this major art school.

Early Exposure to British and European art in Australia

Artists in Australia became increasingly aware of broader international developments art through several avenues; local artists travelling overseas, training by international teachers, exhibitions which included artwork by overseas artists, magazines and newspapers. 

Julian Ashton, Alfred Daplyn, Florence Fuller, Arthur Loureiro, Emma Minnie Boyd, Tom Roberts, Elizabeth Parsons, David Davies, John Longstaff, Emanuel Phillips Fox, and Tudor St. George Tucker all travelled overseas for short periods around 1880 - 90. Their destination was  predominantly London and Cornwall and their focus had primarily been on Realism and Naturalism, which influenced Australian Impressionism and then Federation art in particular.


They brought back with them new approaches to painting which informed and educated a new generation of artists.

Florence Fuller, Weary, 1888.png.jpg

Florence Fuller, Weary, 1888.

Arthur Loureiro, The Forest at Fontainebleau, 1882.jpg

Arthur Loureiro, The Forest at Fontainebleau, 1882

As other artists travelled overseas into the early 1900s, they also returned to share their experiences as well as reproductions of contemporary paintings. For example, Norah Simpson was a key influence on Modernism in Sydney after she returned from Europe in 1912, where she had been studying at the Westminster School of Art in London. She brought with her numerous copies of works by Cezanne, Gauguin and van Gogh which were shown to fellow students at Antoni Dattilo-Rubbo's classes at the Royal Art Society in Sydney. Dattilo-Rubbo had also brought back reproductions of works by the French Impressionists and Post Impressionists after a trip to Europe in 1906, These reproductions were to lead to some of Australia's earliest Modernist works, such as Grace Cossington Smith's The Sock Knitter, 19 xx (Cossington Smith did not travel overseas herself.) 

The NGV Travelling Scholarship instituted by G.F.Folingsby, which was first awarded to John Longstaff in 1887, remained in operation until 1932.

The Scholarship was to be awarded 'to the best work exhibited by students at the National Gallery art classes' although in 1898 the terms of the award expanded to allow students from outside to be considered, albeit only under 'certain conditions'.


Although the terms of the award dictated that at least one original canvas and two Old Master copies from each recipien which would be added to the Melbourne collection, it did provide them with a stipend of £150 per year, for three years, to travel and study in the 'principal art centres of Europe'.

 Immigrant teachers, such as French sisters Berthe Mouchette and Marie Lion,  who had exhibited at the Paris Salon, provided private classes in art, which was infuences by overseas developments.  They came to Australia in 1881, and were amongst the first to enable women to study life drawing in the studio.

Several major exhibitions featuring overseas artists were held towards the end of the century, for example The Anglo-Australian Society of Artists held exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide in 1880s and 1890s and the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition from 1888-89. 

In the Introduction to the first  Anglo-Australian Society of Artists  exhibition it was stated that;

"The Council of selection and invitation secured over 200 works from leading artists of the Royal Academy the Royal Society of painters in water colours, the Royal Institute of painters in watercolours, the Royal Society of British artists, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Hibernian Academy, and the new English Arts Club."

However, unsurprisingly, at this time, the exhibitions contained many traditional artworks, including landscapes and seascapes. 

The Melbourne International Exhibition 1880.PNG

Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition 1888-9

The English art journal The Studio was a useful source of information for Australian artists from the late 1890s. The magazine included articles on art and exhibitions in England, as well as in France, and numerous colour and black and white prints. Occassionally it featured information about  Australian artists working in England, such as George Lambert. Connoisseur was another popular magazine and The London Times would have also been read widely.

The Australian magazine Art in Australia was published several times per year between 1916 and 1942 and included articles about local and overseas artists and events.  It also included numberous colour and black and white reproductions. 

Artist Roland Wakelin wrote several articles, including one titled The Modern Art Movement in Australia, in 1928. 

He wrote:

"It was about the year 1913 that the first glimmerings of what is now called "modern art” came to us in Sydney—I remember seeing in a Sunday paper a cubist "Nude Descending a Staircase.” It was puzzling, but I wanted to know more about these pictures. The names of Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh were then unknown here. We art students knew a little of the French Impressionists, Manet, Monet, Degas and Rodin, but more of the English Impressionism of Whistler."

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912 from phil museum.jpg

(Duchamp had seen photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, which influenced this early Futurist artwork.)

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912

Eadweard Muybridge, Man descending stairs, from Animal Locomotion, 1887.png

Eadweard Muybridge, Man descending stairs, from Animal Locomotion, 1887

Wakelin's comments reflect the general level of understanding by the Australian population about developments art in Europe in the early 20th Century. 

The development of Modern art styles in Europe and the UK

Since the late 1800s art styles had been changing dramatically in Europe. Artists were experimenting with Post Impressionism, Symbolism, German Expressionism, Fauvism and Cubism - all Modernist forms of art. From the early 1910s there was a move towards abstraction

Paris was at the cutting edge of Modernism up until the second world war, with artists travelling from other (mainly European) countries to form what became loosely known as the École de Paris - or the School of Paris.

However, not all artists and art institutions saw themselves as avante garde. In both France and England academic conservatism continued to attract a large body of artists focused on traditional subjects and techniques. 

Gabriel Munter portrait of a young lady 1909.PNG

Gabriel Munter,  Portrait of a Young Lady,  1909

Paul Cézanne, Sous-bois (Wood), 1900–02.jpg

Paul Cézanne, Sous-bois (Wood), 1900–02

Some Australian artists had already been enticed to travel to Paris prior to the turn of the Century.  One of the earliest was Iso Rae, who travelled with her family in 1887. Developing an Impressionist style, she remained in France for most of her life, although her work was exhibited in Australia. Another was Rubert Bunny, who moved to Paris in 1886, after studying in London for two years. Bunny married a French woman and although he made several return visits to Australia he mainly lived in France until the 1930s.  John Peter Russell was another Australia expat who moved to Europe in the late 1870s, not returning until the 1920s. Russell was a friend of Vincent van Gogh. His Impressionist style, and interest in pure colour, was a major influence on the young Henri Matisse, whom he met and tutored on the island of Belle-Ilein the late 1890s. Matisse reportedly stated "Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained colour theory to me." ( Russell also shared his knowledge about Impressionism with Tom Roberts on a walking tour of Spain in 1883, and they had regularly corresponded after this time. (

Dora Meeson spent two years in Paris between 1898 and - moved London

These artists were followed by large numbers in the early 1900s. 

Despite their close proximity, artistic developments in France and England differed through the  1800s and into the early 1900s.  Although English artists, like the French, began painting Plein Air  (outdoors) they didn't adopt the light filled scenes of the Impressionists, nor the middle class subject matter, favouring tonal studies and the every day life of the working class. Nor did they advance as quickly into other styles. 


The  New  English   Art Club,   which founded  in  1885 and  the  Glasgow   School  which   began  about  the   same   time   with   similar   objectives,    were   the   first  organized    revolts — since  the   Pre- Raphaelites—   against    the   limitations    of  academic     painting.     The   New   English    and   the Glasgow   programs    were  a  return    to plein-air  naturalism     and  for  this  direction    they  were indebted   to Whistler   as a forerunner    and  to the  impressionist   movement   across  the  Channel. Another   factor 
sure,  in this de-msularizing     of British  painting   was the  foundation    in the  1870s of the  Slade 
School  at  the  University    of  London,    with  the  Frenchman     Legros  at  its head.   Thereafter, 
the  Royal  Academy   schools  were  no longer  able  to monopolize    the  training   of students.)

MASTERS  OF BRITISH  PAINTING 1800-1950 Andrew Carnduff Ritchie 1956 MOMA

It's considered that England didn't begin to embrace Modernism until British art critic Roger Fry (and other members of the Bloomsbury group)  organised the first Post-Impressionist exhibition  at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1910. Up until that time British art had been fairly isolated from the radical developments that had been  taking place in Paris.


Officially titled Manet and the Post-Impressionists  the exhibition, which featured Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh as well as Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Georges Seurat and Maurice de Vlaminck, was a major commercial success, attracting over 25,000 visitors over the two months it was on display.

Thea Proctor, who had moved to London in 1903,  stated

" We had the Post-Impressionists’ exhibition ... another thrilling experience ...
it was rather a shock, because I had been trained to draw the figure realistically,
and of course, with the Gauguins, the form was very simplified ...
But the colour was thrilling

Thea Proctor, interview with Hazel de Berg (1961)

It was also a time of cultural change in England, following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. For a short period, known as the Edwardian age, there was a relaxing of the strict repression of Victorian society. However, it was a short hiatus period lasting until the horrors of World War One.

The list of Australian artists in the UK and France in the early part of the 20th Century is quite extensive, and includes;


Iso Rae, Agnes Goodsir, Marie Tuck, Bessie Gibson, Dora Meeson, Alice Muskett, Ethel Carrick, Ada May Plante, Margaret Preston, Kathleen O'Conner, Anne Alison Green, Bessie Davidson, Jessie Traill, Gladys Reynell, Vida Lahey, Mary Cockburn Mercer, Janet Cumbrae Stewart, Hilda Rex Nicholas, Ann Dangar, Evelyn Chapman, Grace Cowley, Dorrit Black, Stella Bowen, Madge Freeman, Constance Stokes, Moya Drying, Betty Quelhurst, Margaret Olley, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Ethel Spowers, Eveline Syme, Max Meldrum, Thea Proctor, George Lambert, Violet Teague, Charles Conder,  Rupert Bunny, George Bell, Horace Brodzky, Ivan Brooks, Charles Bryant, Arthur Burgess,  Robert  Campbell, Hilda Cholmondeley, Isaac Cohen, Archibald Colquhoun, Joseph Connor, Antonio Dattilo Rubbo, Mary Degen, William Dobell, Douglas Dundas, John Eldershaw, Albert Hanson, Clewin Harcourt, Weaver Hawkins, Hans Heysen, George Hyde-Pownall, Derwent Lees, Richard Hayley Lever, Kenneth MacQueen, James Quinin, James Quinn, Hugh Ramsay, Lloyd Rees, Norah Simpson, Helen Stewart, Bess Tait, Dorathea Toovey, Roland Wakelin, John Watkins, Leslie Wilkie, Blamire Young, Bertha Merfield, Edith Alsop, Rah Fizelle, Daphne Mayo, Charles Wheeler,  Will Ashton, Fred Leist, George Coates,  Will Dyson, Ruby Lindsay, Florence Rodway, Norman Carter. B E Minns, A H Fullwood, Evelyn Chapman, Bertram Mackenna, Jack Kilgour, Constance Jenkins

How did these artists make the most of the opportunities overseas? Aside from taking formal lessons at acadamies and schools, artists worked closely with private teachers, respected artists and friends at a range of ateliers (studios). They joined art societies and clubs and exhibited with local artists.

As had been common for centuries, they copied works in art museums. Many travelled through several countries to visit museums which held work by artists they admired, or just to absorb the light and scenery, and some joined artist colonies or summer schools. They mixed socially with local and international (and other expatriate) artists, often living in close proximity to cultural hubs, such as Montmartre and Montparnasse in Paris and Chelsea in London. 

Artists developed and explored new styles of art - not only painting, but also printmaking, sculpture, fabric design xxx. While some remained relatively true to traditional styles or Impressionism others embraced modernism, experimenting with forms and colours. 

Life and Study in England

Not surprisingly, because of its ties with colonial Australia, England was often the first choice for artists travelling overseas. 

London offered formal study at the very traditional and academic Royal Academy  and the Slade School (which opened in the 1870s).  The Slade offered female students an education on equal terms as men from the outset, making it attractive to many Australian artists, although only a minority of artists arriving in London from Australia were offered positions at either of these schools. However, a number of Australian artists had their work selected to be included in the Royal Academy's annual summer exhibition. Doora Meeson was one Australian artist who studied both at the Slade (from 1892-93) and had her work exhibited at the Royal Academy.  She also studied at the Académie Julian in Paris. Meeson later became a noted maritime painter and war artist. In 1919 she became the first Australian woman member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. 

Doora Meeson, Members of the Queen Marys Army Auxiliary Corps At Work in the Cookhouse, Ro

Doora Meeson, Members of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps: At Work in the Cookhouse, Royal Air Force Camp, Charlton Park, 1919

However, neither schools were modern in their outlook. Founded in 1768, the Royal Academy had been the primary art institution in the United Kingdom for at least two centuries, and held the position as a the  the leading xxx for the study and display of art, the maker of reputation and renown, and the arbiter on national aesthetic matters. However, by the end of the 19th Century, the conservatism of the Academy and the growth of alternate schools and exhibitions options meant that it no longer maintained this reputation. 


The Slade also held a conservative approach to art around the turn of the century. The focal point of the School was the life class, and renaissance masters such as Giotto and  Botticelli were the leading influences on students' work. The response to the Post Impressionist exhibition of 1910 was divided, with drawing teacher Henry Tonks declaring  ‘I shall resign if this talk about Cubism does not cease; it is killing me’.  




Other options for the study of art included the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, the Polytechnic School of Art, the Westminster School of Art, and the Central School of Arts and Crafts.

The Grosvernor School of Art

The Grosvenor School of Art, which opened in 1925, is an important part of Australian art history, as it offered printmaking classes in linoblock, linocut, lithography and etching, as well as tuition in life drawing, painting and composition. According to its prospectus, the school aimed to 'encourage students to express their own individual ideas rather than be forced to accept worn-out academic theories'.  Grosvenor School prospectus quoted in CLAUDE FLIGHT AND HIS FOLLOWERS

The Colour Linocut Movement between the Wars


Particularly under Claude Flight's tuition, a number of Australian artists such as Dorrit Black, Ethel Spowers  and Eveline Symes, perfected the art of linocuts, often adopting a Futurist style. including  the avant-garde art movements of British Vorticism, Italian Futurism and Art Deco. They combined abstraction and dynamism with geometric elements.

Flight had been influenced by Italian Futurist writer Marinettini  who stated in his Futurist manifesto  that ‘the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed’. It was a period when there were major advances in travel options, including aeroplanes, and the speed of travel. in t


Flight's Australian students at that time went on to  became leading printmakers in Australia from the 1930s.

Ethel Spowers, The gust of wind, c 1931.png

Ethel Spowers, The Gust of Wind, c 1931

Eveline Syme, Skating, 1929

Eveline Syme, Skating., 1929.png

Eveline Syme, who had been studying at art schools in Paris in the early 1920s,  discovered  Claude Flight's textbook, Lino-Cuts (London, 1927), in Melbourne in 1928 which inspired her to enrol in his classes at the Grosvenor School,  in  1929, together with her friend, Ethel Spowers.  She wrote,

Here was something new and different, linocut no longer regarded as a base form of woodcut, but evolved into a distinct branch of 20th century art. I had seen nothing more vital and essentially "modern" in the best sense of the word than the reproductions in this book ... Soon after my arrival in England I became one of the pupils at the Grosvenor school.    Eveline Syme, Claude Flight and His Teaching, The Recorder, No. 3 (September, 1929)

After returning to Melbourne later in 1929 with an exhibition of contemporary wood-engravings from the Redfern Gallery, London, Syme became a cautious advocate of modern art.

Eveline Syme San Domenico, Siena. 1931.png
Artists Colonies in Cornwall

Both Newlyn and St Ives were popular artist colonies in Cornwall, which for the most part had a strong focus on Realist art, or Naturalism - which had earlier been a sighificant influence on Australian Impressionism.

The New English Art Club (NEAC) which had been founded in 1884, had been known for exhibiting new and innovative British art, but by 1910 it had become a more conservative body.  By 1913 the Times could describe the NEAC as ‘one of the strongest conservative forces in the country".  Times, 1 December 1913.

The  Camden Town Group was established in 1911, shortly after Fry's Post Empressionist exhibition. The group's choice of everyday subjects, their bold, anti-naturalistic colouring and interest in progressively simplifying forms, presented a type of painting that was new and different. Australian born artist Henry Taylor Lamb was a founder member of the Camden Town Group and then of the London Group in 1913.

The London Group 


Opportunities for exhibiting work also included the Modern Society of Portrait Painters in London, and numerous art clubs.   

The Royal Academy

British artists had previously sought inspiration by travelling to European museums to view the masters first hand. During the French Revolution, and the Revolutionary wars in the late 18th century, British artists were unable to travel to Europe. This meant that they sought inspiration in their own environment.  These were some of events that inspired the birth of British landscape painting (Bendigo Art Gallery chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/

Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Rupert Bunny, George Coates, George Lambert, Agnes Goodsir, and E Phillips Fox, Constance Stokes, Frederick William Leist

The clubs functioned as a meeting space where they could engage in a stimulating artistic environment and gain introductions to leading figures in the art world. For those artists who chose England, London’s arts clubs played a large role, for it was in these establishments that they discussed, exhibited, shared, and met with their English counterparts. The club environment in London had a significant impact on male Australian artists as it offered a space where they were integrated into the English art world which enhanced their experience whilst abroad and influenced the direction of their art.

The London Savage Club attracted many Australian expatriates. Not only is it the grandfather of London’s bohemian clubs but also it was the model for arts clubs the world over. Founded in 1857, the qualification for admission was (and still is) to be, “a working man in literature or art, and a good fellow” (Williams)

Chelsea Art Club

Chelsea was the artistic centre of London around the turn of the 20th century;  so much so that it was known as a Latin quarter. There were numerous studios in the area and in 1890 a group of artists formed the Chelsea Art Club.

It was agreed that the club; 

Should be called the Chelsea Art Club,

Should consist of professional architects engravers painters and sculptors, and

Should aim to advance the cause of art by means of exhibitions, life classes and other kindred means and promote social intercourse amongst its members. 2

Along with Streeton and Roberts, joined the Chelsea Arts Club. They included, John Longstaff (1861–1941), James Quinn (1869–1951), George Coates (1869–1930), and Will Dyson (1880–1938), along with Sydney artists Henry Fullwood (1863–1930), George Lambert (1873–1930), and Will Ashton (1881–1963). The Chelsea Arts Club also served as a venue for artists to entertain and host distinguished visitors from home

In late 1902, Streeton wrote to fellow artist and Savage Club member Tom Roberts (1856–1931) from London:

I belong to the Chelsea Arts Club now, & meet the artists – MacKennel says it’s about the most artistic club (speaking in the real sense) in England. … They all seem to be here – McKennal, Longstaff, Mahony, Fullwood, Norman, Minns, Fox, Plataganet Tudor St. George Tucker, Quinn, Coates, Bunny, Alston, K, Sonny Pole, other minor lights and your old friend and admirer Smike – within 100 yards of here – there must be 30 different studios. (Streeton 94) (Williams)

Coates and Meeson established themselves in Chelsea where they became members of an extensive circle of Australian expatriate artists. - coates didn't responded to developments in art after impressionism

In 1896 Dora Meeson studied at the Slade School. A fellow student was Augustus John. (2) She also met the Australian artist, George James Coates, who had won a travelling scholarship to Europe. Coates and Meeson established themselves in Chelsea where they became members of an extensive circle of Australian expatriate artists.


Paris at the turn of the century, and largely up until the second world war, was at the cutting edge of Modernism, with artists travelling from other (mainly European) countries to form what became loosely known as the École de Paris - or the School of Paris. For some unknown reason, even though Australian artists mixed and studied with xxx they are not mentioned in literature about the École. 

Académie Julian in Paris, to Cormon’s, to Jean Paul Lauren’s;

Focusing on conventional subjects such as portraiture, figure studies, landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes, artists of the School of Paris employed a diversity of styles and techniques including the bold, dynamic colors of Fauvism, the revolutionary methods of Cubism, the animated qualities of Expressionism, and the private worlds of Symbolism.

Montmartre was abuzz with cafés, cabarets, and artists’ studios, with a large number of painters including Renoir, Utrillo, Dufy, Picasso, Dalí, Mondrian, Monet, Pissarro, van Gogh, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Modigliani associated with the area. After the outbreak of World War I, however, many of the artists left the neighborhood and decamped to the Montparnasse quarter on the left bank. Whereas the artists of Montmartre had associated together more on the basis of status rather than artistic taste, those in Montparnasse were more of an economically and socially homogeneous group, comprised of penniless emigrant artists from around the world who flocked to Montparnasse for the cheap rent and the creative atmosphere, often selling their works to buy enough food to eat and spending hours in the cafés and bars of the area. The Montparnasse group included at various times Léger, Picasso, Apollinaire, Cocteau, Chagall, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Modigliani, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Duchamp, Gris, Giacometti, Breton, Samuel Beckett, Miró, and many others. Dabbling in cubism, futurism, expressionism, and realism, among other styles, these artists are today often grouped loosely under the “School of Paris” umbrella.

Numerous Australian artists were part of the international contingent who headed to Paris. Bessie Davidson travelled there in 1904 with her Adelaide companions, Rose MacPherson (Margaret Preston; 1875–1963), and Gladys Reynell (1881–1956). They joined a number of other Australians who had been there for some years, including Iso Rae (1860–1940), Rupert Bunny (1864– 1947), Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865–1915), Hugh Ramsay (1877–1906) and Ambrose Paterson (1877–1966). Edith 
Fry (1883–1950), another of the Australians working there, explained the attraction: ‘Paris is the only truly cosmopolitan city of the world for artists, whose work stands a better chance there than in any other art centre of being judged on its merits’.6 What is interesting is how a cross-generational group of women artists, in particular, chose to circumvent a restrictive masculinism in Australian visual arts patronage, instead heading overseas to develop their modern practice. Their expatriatism was nothing short of ‘a feminine response to nationalism’, rife in the arts in Australia, with women making conscious choices about their careers.7 This group included not just Davidson, MacPherson and Reynell, but also Hilda Rix (1884–1961), Marie Tuck (1866–1947), Alice Muskett (1869–1936), Bessie Gibson (1868–1961), Anne Alison Greene (1878–1954), and Kathleen O’Connor (1876–1968). Between the wars Dorrit Black (1891–1951), Grace Crowley (1890–1979) and 
Anne Dangar (1885–1951) also made the journey. Paris was attractive because the French academies in which they typically enrolled, such as Académie Colarossi, Académie Julian, Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Académie Delécluse, were open to women, and there 
were more opportunities for women to exhibit their work than in London. The perception was that women artists were taken seriously in Paris, and that the art schools in that city offered the best tuition.8 Australian women too had confidence in themselves, having achieved

ust after their sisters in New Zealand, and well before their French, British and North American counterparts. The New Zealander, Frances Hodgkins (1869–1947), was 
the first woman teacher at Colarossi’s, also running her own private art school. 
In a 1903 issue of Studio magazine, Clive Holland outlined the best ateliers for ‘lady students’ and their tuition fees, where they should live and how to conduct themselves as ‘ladies’ in Paris. His article also described studio teas or musical evenings in the Latin Quarter, at 
which ‘her girl- and even men student friends’ will gather to drink tea and discuss art matters in general in ‘true Bohemian camaraderie’.9 As Edith Fry commented in one of her reports on life in Paris for the Sydney Morning Herald in 1924, ‘the careers of Australian artists who 
have left home for the purpose of study give a striking illustration of the truth that it is by travel and by study that the artist succeeds in finding himself, and frees himself 
for the expression of his own individuality’.10 Like Bessie Davidson, these women tended to live on 
the Left Bank, in Montparnasse. A large community of English-speaking artists resided there, including Americans, Canadians, English, Scottish, New Zealanders and Australians, all studying at the same ateliers, frequenting the same artists’ clubs and painting in the same artists’ colonies in the summer, when the art schools closed down.11 These foreign artists interacted 
with each other, and modern Paris had become a site for international encounters, providing ‘a global arena for multivalent and multidirectional exchange among artists’.12 That working ethos of engaging in transnational networks with fellow cosmopolitans led artists to develop 
‘an outlook of cultural open-ness and receptivity to difference’, and facilitated a ‘direct connection between the individual and the world as a whole’.13Hilda Rix stepped into this rich environment in Paris, along with her mother and sister, in November 1907. Davidson, by then, was in transit to Adelaide, but returned in 1910. Paris transformed Hilda Rix’s work: she  took classes in three ateliers, each for short periods. Like many of the women students, she seemed to know what 
she wanted from each. First at the Académie Delécluse in Rue Notre Dame des Champs, under an academic teacher, she honed her skills in life drawing. Then, early in 1908, Rix moved art schools, enrolling for three months with the influential American teacher Richard Miller at 
his studio in the same street, because, as she wrote in her diary, ‘he is causing a stir in Paris’.14 He favoured paintings of women in sunlight interiors, with simplified design, vigorous textured brushwork and strong colours. His ‘distinctive brand of impressionism and choice of 
subject matter had a lasting effect on her work’, as in paintings such as The pink scarf, 1913.15 Davidson herself took classes with Richard Miller at Colarossi’s, where he also taught. Her Portrait of Madame LeRoy, c. 1920, shows all the hallmarks of the pensive subjects produced 
by Miller.16 Hilda Rix then enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumier for two months in 1908, where she learnt to portray life as she observed it on the streets, a skill undeniably apparent in her drawings of Étaplian women. One distinct advantage of being an art student in Paris 
was its proximity to North Africa. Orientialist subjects were fashionable in Paris, and Morocco was under French colonial rule, prompting numerous artists, including Hilda Rix and fellow Parisian residents Ethel Carrick and Emanuel Phillips Fox, to travel there to paint. Davidson and Preston went to Tangier in Morocco in 1906, where Davidson produced a number of the 
paintings, including Snake charmer in Tangier, which she exhibited in Adelaide in 1907.17 Hilda Rix Nicholas – as she was known after her marriage – attracted critical attention following her two trips to Morocco, where she produced the work, Market place, Tangier, 1912–14. Her 
striking light-saturated modern paintings of that time showed the life, colour and activity of Tangier, and were exhibited to much acclaim in Paris. Another Australian artist determined to work in Paris was the West Australian Kathleen O’Connor. She had been encouraged to do so by Florence Fuller, a recent arrival in Perth, following her ten years in Europe, and by Marie 
Tuck, an Adelaide artist teaching in Perth. O’Connor’s first visit to Paris in 1906 inspired her, and by 1908, after an interval in London, where she took classes, she returned to Montparnasse, living frugally in one room, which doubled as a studio. The street life was her subject 
and she delighted in drawing women and children and their nursemaids in the Luxembourg Gardens. This was a subject popular with other artists such as Ethel Carrick 
Fox, in lively post-impressionist paintings such as In the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, c. 1908. 
It is believed that O’Connor reconnected with Marie Tuck, who was by then in Paris taking classes with Rupert Bunny at the Atelier Blanche, established by Bunny and Jacques-Émile Blanche. O’Connor also took classes briefly with Bunny, as did Bessie Davidson. O’Connor’s 
Two café girls, c. 1914, painted in quick and loose brushstrokes, shows young women (perhaps co-workers) dressed in the fashion of the day and smoking – a sign of liberation – a glass of wine on the table, the work reflecting O’Connor’s fascination with life in the city, which she described as:
The dream of life in Paris, the restaurant life, the café life, which to me is almost the most 
fascinating of all there is to see. Cafés dancing with lights, glasses glittering with reflections, and 
with it all the music of many voices, the babble of many tongues. From the French one learns 
much, his very excellent custom of eating out of doors, of drinking out of doors, which gives to 
life the semblance at least of gaiety … in Paris one feels part of the whole.18
In this milieu of transnational networks, O’Connor joined several other Colarossi students, including 
the Canadian Emily Carr and fellow Australian Bessie Gibson, to study watercolour painting under Frances Hodgkins over the summer of 1911 at the artists’ colony of Concarneau, a fishing village. While there, O’Connor and Hodgkins visited the studio of the American marine 
painter Charles Fromuth and attended the nearby Quimper Fair with him.19 O’Connor’s oil painting Brittany market, Concarneau, c. 1911 shows Breton women at the fair, with their distinctive headdress portrayed in quick sketchy brushstrokes. O’Connor began to take 
painting classes with Fromuth at Concarneau, meeting there another American, Alexander Harrison, who earlier had taught Emanuel Phillips Fox, and with whom she remained in correspondence over the years.20 O’Connor, in working with Hodgkins, was carefully crafting her 
career as a modern artist, and she began exhibiting, from 1911, at the more modern Salon D’Automne. A friendship with British artist Nina Hamnett led to her taking classes 
with the well-connected Russian artist Marie Wassilief, who, in turn, counted among her friends leading modern artists such as Matisse and Picasso. Following the outbreak of war, O’Connor moved to London, where she became involved in British post-impressionism and 
established connections with the Omega artists before moving back to Paris in 1917. After the war, she began to create abstract designs for fabric. In 1934 O’Connor showed four paintings at the Société Internationale des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs, along with French, 
American, Dutch and English women. Agnes Goodsir (1864–1939) was the other Australian exhibitor. France was a country where women still lacked the vote, and in the post-war return-to-order climate, the government actively pursued a pro-natalist policy of returning women to the home. Some women fully aligned themselves with procreation, yet numerous women 
artists in the 1920s and the 1930s adopted radical and subversive ways of inserting themselves into the modern visual arts culture as it was unfolding. How they did this varied, but one key factor was whether the artists were expatriate or French-born.21 Bessie Davidson integrated 
herself into French culture, and her companion Dauphine LeRoy was French-born, so respectability seemed to govern Davidson’s life. But Davidson was very active in women artists’ circles, and was vice president of FAM (Société des Femmes Artistes Moderne), which countedamong its members leading French-born and émigré artists from across Europe.22 Some FAM artists, such 
as Polish émigré Tamara de Lempicka, negotiated ways to represent same-sex relationships in this political climate. Davidson was more oblique, including Dauphine as a subject in her interiors in the act of reading a book or writing a letter, thus presenting a feminine household. One painting that displays a more overt hint of her relationship with Dauphine is the bedroom 
scene portrayed in Intérieur (Jour de Soleil) of 1925. It is a private scene made public: the bed is unmade and the clothes are still draped over a chair, while the mirror reflects light streaming into a private room through the open blinds. Although Davidson appears to have 
employed subtle visual cues to protect her French- born companion, other expatriates and émigrés, by contrast, found it easier to construct an identity based on a raft of sexual and social freedoms. Thus Russianfabric designer and painter Sonia Delaunay, adorned 
with bobbed hair and tunic and trousers, could present herself as a modern professional woman, whereas French women were less able to flaunt convention. The celebrated author Colette struggled ‘to become a modern woman within her own society where she did not 
enjoy the freedoms of an outsider, and rigid definitions of femininity still operated’ for her. 23 French-born Marie Laurencin found ways to perform her modernity, via an iconography of what has been called a masquerade of excessive femininity. 24Agnes Goodsir, a long-term expatriate, left Bendigo in 1899 for Paris, where she took classes, moving between Paris and London, and by 1923 was living permanently at 18 Rue de l’Odéon with her partner Cherry, Mrs Rachel Dunn, whom she had met in London. In 1920s Paris, with its conservative pro-maternal government, she was one of 
the foreign-artist contingent who did not have to submit to the same rules regarding same-sex relationships.
The American, Sylvia Beach, was another. She ran the famed bookshop and lending library, Shakespeare and Company, the epicentre of modern writing in Paris, and 
lived in the same apartment block as Goodsir, at 12 Rude l’Odéon, with her partner Adrienne Monnier.  
Goodsir specialised in portraits, and similar to the work of Bessie Davidson, many of these were set in interiors, described at the time by Edith Fry as ‘the decorative portrait’ and as ‘distinctly Parisian’.25 Initially Goodsir portrayed the women in romantic settings wearing seductive clothing, but, as the 1920s gathered pace, the image of the modern flapper with bobbed hair appeared 
in her paintings. Cherry was a frequent subject, as in Girl with a cigarette, 1925, sitting in a café, adorned in a cloche hat and a fashionable shawl, and in an even more sophisticated pose in The Parisienne, c. 1924. During this era, some women were choosing to dress in manly 
clothing, a style that Davidson had earlier portrayed in her Edwardian-era painting of her friend Gladys Reynell in Portrait of Miss GR, 1906, dressed for horse riding in a 
manly jacket, shirt and tie. In Goodsir’s 1925 painting of Cherry, the subject has few feminine features, apart from her red lips and long slender hands, one of which holds 
a cigarette, her face obscured by her hat. It is framed by the upturned collar of her coat, and she exudes a modern boyish style, associated in 1920s France with the ‘independent garçonne or femme moderne’.26 She is an emancipated woman at ease in a café or bar in the 
Latin Quarter, whereas in pro-natalist circles, this kind of dress evoked a wider cultural anxiety and symbolised a rejection of bourgeois family life.  
In this cosmopolitan era of transnational networks, Stella Bowen too mixed in cross-national circles. An Australian artist who had lived in England since 1914, she and her partner, the American writer Ford Madox Ford, had relocated to France and in 1923, and lived in Montparnasse, where she wrote ‘if you gave a party, you could not hope to know more than half the people 
w h o  c a m e’. 27 She emerged in the mid-1920s from a domineering relationship with Madox Ford to find her métier as an artist in France, and in the early 1930s lived at 18 Rue Boissonade, above Bessie Davidson, whom she described as ‘the old Australian impressionist’.28 
Like Davidson, Bowen painted interiors, and often with an empty or recently vacated chair to imply a room lived in and loved, as in Interior Paris, 1931, with its two blue velvet chairs, or with a crumpled cushion on a day bed, as in Tusnelda’s interior, 1936. The interior for each artist 
was a signature of their world, a statement of belonging in France.29 Bowen was later to write, ‘I have a rather special feeling about houses – particularly the sort that look as though they have been lived in a lot’.30 Eventually and reluctantly, she was forced to leave Paris and return 
to London, writing: There will never be anything like the Paris of the nineteen twenties in our lifetime. Those were the days before the international finance system collapsed and the depression pulled us all into the mire … We were all expatriates, and very few of us earned our money in France. The rate of exchange made us richer than we would have been at home, but that was not the chief 
reason why we lived abroad. We lived in France because the French understood how to live far 
better than we did. Behind our irresponsibility was the background of French shapeliness and 
realism. We tried to absorb and imitate these things, and to educate ourselves in the French 
way of life. We were alive to all its beauty, to its excellence of craftsmanship and precision of 
expression … The Americans and the English and the Danes and the Swedes who lived on 
the Left Bank in the 1920s were diverse enough, bound only by their love of all things French, and 
their precocious dependence upon a supply of foreign currency. Some of them meant to go 
home, some day. But with many of us, our hopes and plans for the future were all thickly woven 
into the fabric of France. It was like a marriage, believed indissoluble. We did not know we were 
building castles upon sand.31Prior to the depression, Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar 
had come to Paris to study modern art with the salon cubist artist André Lhote. His Académie Lhote was located in Rue d’Odessa, near the Montparnasse statioin and loved, as in Interior Paris, 1931, with its two blue velvet chairs, or with a crumpled cushion on a day bed, 
as in Tusnelda’s interior, 1936. The interior for each artist was a signature of their world, a statement of belonging in France.29 Bowen was later to write, ‘I have a rather special feeling about houses – particularly the sort that look as though they have been lived in a lot’.30 Eventually 
and reluctantly, she was forced to leave Paris and return to London, writing: 
There will never be anything like the Paris of the nineteen twenties in our lifetime. Those 
were the days before the international finance system collapsed and the depression pulled us 
all into the mire … We were all expatriates, and very few of us earned our money in France. The 
rate of exchange made us richer than we would have been at home, but that was not the chief 
reason why we lived abroad. We lived in France because the French understood how to live far 
better than we did. Behind our irresponsibility was the background of French shapeliness and 
realism. We tried to absorb and imitate these things, and to educate ourselves in the French 
way of life. We were alive to all its beauty, to its excellence of craftsmanship and precision of 
expression … The Americans and the English and the Danes and the Swedes who lived on 
the Left Bank in the 1920s were diverse enough, bound only by their love of all things French, and 
their precocious dependence upon a supply of foreign currency. Some of them meant to go 
home, some day. But with many of us, our hopes and plans for the future were all thickly woven 
into the fabric of France. It was like a marriage, believed indissoluble. We did not know we were 
building castles upon sand.31

Prior to the depression, Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar had come to Paris to study modern art with the salon cubist artist André Lhote. His Académie Lhote was located in Rue d’Odessa, near the Montparnasse station Dorrit Black, who had been in London taking classes with Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School, joined them in 1928 for Lhote’s summer school at Mirmande. Lhote’s 
cubist teaching led to Black’s change in approach to painting landscapes: she now viewed the landscape as a series of fractured planes, united into a rhythmic whole, as portrayed in Mirmande, 1928. And later, on return trip in 1934, the landscape was presented even more radically, punctuated by cubist structures, as in Mirmande (with surrounding hills). Black and Crowley 
also took classes with Albert Gleizes in Paris. Davidson meanwhile was experimenting with quasi-cubist approaches to landscape, as in Guethary ll, c. 1940, rendering the cliffs abutting the coast as blocky planes of colour, accentuated by a black outline, although her 
vigorous application of paint for the swirling waters on the sandy beach was more post-impressionist in style. Dangar, followed by Black, and, finally, Crowley, returned 
home, each profoundly affected by their time in France, Crowley in particular by abstraction. After a brief sojourn in Sydney, in 1930 Anne Dangar returned to France. She was captivated by Gleizes’s ideas, and like Davidson and Goodsir, France became her home. She joined a 
pottery commune at Moly-Sabata and lived and worked in a rural commune established by Albert Gleizes.32 
She went on to produce pottery with decorative motifs based on Gleizes’s cubist principles of rotation and translation in order to create complex spatial rhythms. Some of her ceramic motifs were abstract in design,such as her c. 1934 Jug; others were semi-figurative 
and explored religious and mythological themes, as in Aladdin, c. 1938–51. From her rural base in France, Dangar maintained contact with Grace Crowley and the Sydney art scene, and her letters containing excerpts from Gleizes’s lessons were reprinted in Undergrowth magazine and read by art students of the day. 
These are some of the women who carefully crafted their careers as successful Australian artists in Paris and France. As members of the cosmopolitan set living and being in that vibrant city, these women created art that shifted in response to working in that particular environment. Raymond Williams has explained the nature of this change, observing that the open nature 
of the major metropoles differed greatly from provincial areas, where there was a ‘persistence of traditional social, cultural and intellectual forms’.33 In his view, the ‘complexity’ and ‘miscellaneity’ of this modern urban environment liberated artists and resulted directly in 
changes in style:
Thus the key cultural factor of the modernist shift is the character of the metropolis … [and] 
its direct effect on form … this underlies in an obvious way, the elements of strangeness and 
distance, indeed alienation, which so regularly forms part of the repertory. But the decisive 
aesthetic effect is at a deeper level. Liberated or breaking from their national or provincial 
cultures, placed in quite new relations to those other native languages or native visual traditions, 
encountering meanwhile a novel and dynamic common environment from which many of the older forms were obviously distant, the artists and writers and thinkers of this phase found the 
only commonality available to them: a community of the medium; of their own practices.34
In responding to this cosmopolitan effect, some artists became post-impressionist in style, others became figurative moderns, others again avant-gardists. Some never returned to their home countries: Paris and France had entered their souls and taken control. Others did 
go home, but like Rix Nicholas or Dorrit Black, later returned to France. Australian art is the richer for the art produced off shore by these short- and long-term expatriate women, who played a key role in introducing modernism to this country. Paris was a city that allowed a liberty of lifestyle for foreign artists and an ethos of experimentation. For some of the Australian women, 
such as Bessie Davidson and Agnes Goodsir, who were buried there  with their partners, it was a city they could  never leave.

Paris Calls Professor Catherine Speck

1) Western Australian, October, 1905

2) Chelsea Arts Club

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11 , 1988 Biography - Grace Cossington Smith -        (

Williams, G. H. (2016). Australian Artists Abroad. M/C Journal, 19(5).

3)Deborah Hart (ed), Grace Cossington Smith, National Gallery of Australia, 2005, p10

4)Deborah Hart (ed), Grace Cossington Smith, National Gallery of Australia, 2005, p11     slade school fauvist armory show     slade school paris new york     slade travelling scholarship   slade france  slade   slade us   slade paris   bess norris slade paris  locations in montparnasse  locations in montmartre  locations montparnasse - list of artists to review - art clubs in London

trove art in australia mags edith fry also wrote about artists overs  the home mag

Emma Minnie Boyd, Corner of a Dining room
Emma Minnie Boyd A Bush Camp
Emma Minnie Boyd In Lucerne
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