Colleague Spotlight: Lainie Edwards

As part of our ambition to share our passion for the work of Australian women artists, Sheila would like to introduce current projects by colleagues – curators, art historians, researchers and artists – that further knowledge and appreciation of our historical Australian women artists.

The first in this series, is Lainie Edwards, who has recently launched her new website:, which showcases her extensive catalogues of the work of Janet Cumbrae Stewart (1883-1960), Mary Cockburn Mercer (1882-1963) and Dora L Wilson (1883-1946), which are available now for free download. Lainie is currently compiling similar catalogues on the work of Jessie C.A.Traill (1881-1967) and Nora Heysen (1911-2003), which will be available in the near future. All catalogues represent the first essential stage toward the development of a raisonné for each artist.

Image: Painted in 1919, Cubrae Stewart’s most prized painting, Noonday Rest received Honourable Mention when it was exhibited at the Salon in 1923, but has not been seen since it was exhibited in Melbourne in 1947.

As Lainie has said of her ambitious project, “I live in rural New South Wales – just about as far as imaginable from the period in Australian art history that I am interested in. My work combines a love of Australian art, and research, and my website is a way of giving back to the artists who have brought me so much joy and purpose, in the hope that it helps to re-shine a light on their work and their importance to Australian art history.”

Image: Following a hugely successful solo exhibition in 1925 that attracted English high society, including Queen Mary herself, Cumbrae Stewart exhibited a collection of pictures in 1926 “with some startling gestures in studies of the nude”, that divided London audiences. One of these was The Haughty Princess, modelled on Manet’s Olympia (1863). This work was last exhibited in Melbourne in 1943 and has not been heard of since.

“Since completing my degree, I have become somewhat obsessed by Janet [Cumbrae Stewart] and her generation of artists who embraced their new-found independence and contributed so much to Australian art history. Janet pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for women in the arts. She was the first Australian woman to specialise in the male-dominated genre of the nude and was very likely the first Australian woman to hold a solo exhibition in England. Queen Mary herself turned up to her exhibition and selected a picture that remains in the Royal Collection today. She was held in high esteem by artists and critics following the First World War and was a household name in Australia, but today she is little known. She had an incredible ability with pastel which in my opinion has not been surpassed. They are just beautiful!”

Lainie holds a Bachelor Degree in Art History and formal qualifications in photography, and has more than fifteen years’ copy writing experience. She is currently working her first book of creative nonfiction on the life of Janet Cumbrae Stewart.

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