Erica McGilchrist, Specialist with hobby 1962 (detail), oil and collage on paper on hardboard, 92 x 129 cm. Into the Light Collection, Sheila Foundation.

Into the Light: Recovering Australia's Lost Women Artists: 1870-1960

Into the Light: Recovering Australia’s lost women artists 1870–1960 is a national research project aimed at identifying generations of professional women artists who have been written out of the historical narratives of Australian. There are two parts to the project:


Into the Light is a significant national research project, led by Sheila Foundation, with the aim of making a wealth of information available on a free online database.
In 2016-2017, Sheila Foundation funded a pilot project for NSW 1870–1914. Our research uncovered 434 women artists, the vast majority not on the historical record. We have now developed a model to complete the project nationally. We have raised seed funding to enable us to move to the next stage of development, collaborating with major institutions across Australia to make this a comprehensive and transformative project and seeking funding to make the project a reality.

Donor Circle

Since launch, generous donors have joined our Into the Light Donor Circle to fund the acquisition of artworks unearthed through the research for Into the Light. We acquire between 7 and 12 artworks a year. After purchase, each artwork is given appropriate conservation treatment, framing and documentation. It is hoped to tour the Into the Light Collection nationally in 2025, after which the artworks will be donated to institutional collections.


ALINE CUSACK (1867 - 1949)

Aline Cusack, born in 1867 in New Zealand and brought up in Newcastle and Sydney, was a prominent professional Sydney based artist who worked from the 1890s to the 1930s. Her sister Edith E. Cusack was also a successful artist and the pair were well known as the Cusack sisters. They had numerous exhibitions together of a wide range of paintings and also shared a studio at the Palings Building, where they ran an art school teaching plein air painting to mostly female students. The three paintings acquired for the Into the Light Collection are three of the eight known paintings by Aline Cusack.

Edith Cusack, Aline Cusack, 1896, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 23 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Explore Into the Light Acquisitions

Each year Sheila is proud to unearth, restore and research historical works by women artists. The artists were active professional artists in their day but their careers and works have been lost because women’s art was not highly valued at the time. The research into their lives and stories is fascinating and helps fill the gaps in our art history.

Support Into the Light Acquisitions

We hope you will consider joining the Into the Light Donor Circle to allow us to acquire and preserve more of Australia’s lost heritage of women’s art. Annual membership is $2,000, with an initial three year commitment that can be extended. Members are invited to the annual launch of the Into the Light acquisitions in Perth in October each year, and receive a copy of the Into the Light catalogue produced each year.

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