Into the Light: Donor Circle Acquisitions: 2021

Into the Light: Recovering Australia’s lost women artists 1870- 1960 is Sheila’s national research project to collect data about women artists working professionally in Australia whose work may have slipped from view.

The data will be made available to researchers, art historians, curators, artists and collectors via an online portal, facilitating research, exhibitions and publications that reconsider women’s place in Australian art and allow their stories to be seen and heard in our art museums and art histories.

The project’s acquisition fund, supported by the Into the Light Donor Circle and other Sheila supporters, acquires artworks by artists uncovered by the program or known to us from previous research. In time it will become a major reference collection of artworks by generations of little-known women artists.

Elma Roach, Sanary, South of France 1934, oil on canvas, 37.7 x 45.9 cm

Artworks purchased in the third year include impressionist paintings by Ethel Stephens and Aline Cusack (Sydney), Theo Anderson and Beatrix Colquhoun (Melbourne) and Daisy Rossi (Perth). There are also artworks by Melbourne tonal painters Elizabeth Colquhoun and Polly Hurry, and modernists Elma Roach and Louise Thomas, with watercolour portraits by Gladys Laycock and Tempe Manning making up the balance.

This year’s cohort of young researcher/writers numbers seven, drawn from the universities of Sydney, Melbourne and Western Australia, along with two who have written previously for us. Art historian Dr Juliette Peers has been involved as mentor, providing expert guidance and advice, as well as writing three essays and the introduction. This year for the first time we staged a seminar for researcher/writers ahead of the project and a debrief session at its conclusion. We believe the project offers these young art historians and curators an invaluable introduction to professional work in a mentored context.

On behalf of Sheila I’d like to thank everyone involved, with some special thank yous. Firstly, to Juliette Peers, a mainstay of the project. Her research and advice is crucial to our acquisitions program, while for the catalogue she shared her knowledge and experience with a new generation of writers. Secondly to Sheila’s Sydney intern for 2022, Annabelle Mentzines. Annabelle organised the seminars, researched copyright and supplementary images and helped research the fourth year’s tranche of acquisitions. Thirdly to Sheila board members Kelly Gellatly and Angela Goddard, who serve with me on the ITL sub-committee, making difficult decisions about how best to spend our donor funds.

And finally, to our wonderful donors and supporters. You are contributing to a project with the power to transform Australian art by presenting a more accurate and truthful picture of the role of women. We’re proud to present this summary of the works purchased and look forward to adding to it every year as the collection grows. If you would like to join the Into the Light Donor Circle, visit the page here.

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