The Art Gallery of Ballarat's latest exhibition also has a new acquisition to celebrate - one with a strong connection to the city.
Becoming Modern: Australian women artists 1920-1950 opens on Saturday May 18. The exhibition features the work - ceramics, paintings, prints and drawings - of more than 40 artists, including Margaret Preston, Grace Crowley, Thea Proctor and Grace Cossington Smith.
It also features a new work acquired by the gallery through the generosity of the Gallery Women's Association, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The untitled work is by Eleanor Constance Gude, one of Ballarat's finest painters, who was born in Ballarat in 1915. Known as 'Nornie', Gude's portrait of her mother Stella Rehfisch Gude, who was an artist and musician in her own right, the sitter is wearing what could well be a theatrical costume: a Spanish mantle and dress.
Nornie Gude's daughter, the actor Anne Scott Pendlebury, recalls the mantilla and fan depicted in the painting among the family's large collection of costumes which she played with during her childhood. She remembers her grandmother, who died when she was nine, telling Anne she and her husband, the music teacher Walter Gude, were 'long-suffering' models for Nornie's work.
"But this painting is a beautiful one," says Ms Scott Pendlebury.
"She must have persuaded her mother to put on a little bit of Spanish costume, and the costuming I had in my family collection until a couple of years ago."
Nornie Gude studied at Marys Mount Convent (now Loreto College) until the age of 15, when the nuns recognised her artistic talent and allowed her to attend the School of Mines - the youngest pupil to be accepted.
After five years she graduated, then studying fine art at the National Gallery School of Victoria for another five years. Gude won the prestigious MacRobertson Scholarship in 1934 while at SMB and the NGV Travelling Scholarship in 1941 - a scholarship held up by the Second World War.
During the war Gude married fellow artist Laurence Scott Pendlebury. While her husband was on active service, Gude made an income taking commissions for portraits, and income which continued into the married and professional life after the war.
Gude continued to work on commissions well into her 70s and some of her notable subjects include the Hon John Button, Yehudi Menuhin OM KBE, John Sumner AO and Eleanor, Lady Delacombe. Perhaps best known for her watercolour paintings of landscape and flowers, she was twice finalist in the Wynne Prize for landscapes, in 1968 and 1969, as well as being a finalist in the first Moran Prize for Portraiture in 1990. She won the acquisitive Minnie Crouch Prize at the Art Gallery of Ballarat in both 1957 and 1959 with landscape paintings.
Loris Button, Honorary Research Fellow, Federation University Australia
Nornie Gude died in 2002, having continued to paint and teach painting into her 85th year.
President of the Gallery Women's Association Janet McCulloch OAM says the work of women in aiding the gallery is a strong lineage. Established in May 1979, the association provided funds to the gallery through catering, and after council's takeover with the ongoing tradition of Sunday music concerts.
"We were an important part of the gallery in the early years, when the gallery was owned by the association and not by the council," says Ms McCulloch.
"In the first 10 years, from 1979 to 1988, the Women's Association was credited with presenting to the gallery over $60,000. And now our concerts, 10 a year, are very successful; we presented the gallery with a piano in 2016."
Art Gallery of Ballarat director Louise Tegart says the Becoming Modern exhibition delights her insofar as so much of the show is drawn from the archives of the gallery.
She says the acquisition of works by women artists has a chequered history in the development of the gallery collection. Of the 756 works acquired up until 1950, only 28 were by women, she writes in the foreword to the show; since the time of Ron Radford as director the situation has improved, but still needs to be addressed.
"This show gives us the chance to examine the innovation and the tenacity of these women," Ms Tegart says.
"There have been two significant exhibitions here: the first in 1978 which Ron Radford curated, on printmaking. The gallery acquired a large number of prints by women in that exhibition; and then another exhibition curated by Margaret Rich in about 1984 was another opportunity to acquire works by women.