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Paris to Monaro: Pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas @ The Portrait Gallery

By 24 May 2013 2

31 May 2013to11 August 2013

As part of Canberra’s centenary celebrations, the National Portrait Gallery will honour the life and work of Hilda Rix Nicholas.

Hilda Rix Nicholas
Autumn evening’s golden glow c. 1942 by Hilda Rix Nicholas, oil on canvas, Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, Perth

Nicholas, born in Ballarat in 1884, travelled widely overseas between 1907 and 1926 and achieved considerable success as an artist. Having come home with her paintings and exotic mementoes, in 1927 she came to Canberra to paint on Red Hill and Mount Pleasant.  The following year she married Edgar Wright, whose grandfather had owned Lanyon. Nicholas moved her paintings, trunks of costumes and French furniture and fittings to Wright’s property, Knockalong, via Delegate in the broad bleached landscape of the Monaro.  There, when she was forty-six, and pregnant, she built a ‘room of her own’ – a French provincial style studio, built to her own blueprints, and connected to the house by a garden that she designed and planted out herself.

Hilda Rix Nicholas was not part of any group, movement or set; her art is not to be assigned to any ‘school’. She is an anomaly amongst Australian women artists of the first half of the twentieth century not because she lived for her art – many women did – but because she combined an artist’s dedication, ambition and relentless self-promotion with a full life as a partner in a grazing and wool enterprise, and utter devotion to the physical, intellectual and aesthetic development of her son. Some of her best-loved paintings, such as The Fair Musterer and Bringing in the Sheep, show women at work. It has not often been observed, however, that from 1930 onwards, Hilda Rix Nicholas was a very successful working mother.

In Paris to Monaro, Hilda Rix Nicholas’s breezy, high-coloured paintings and drawings of her family and friends in the Monaro landscape will be shown for the first time amongst artefacts, furniture, fabulous garments, souvenirs and ephemera brought directly from the studio she designed and created for herself at Knockalong.  The studio still stands, isolated now in the uncompromising paddocks, its mediaeval fireplace, musicians’ gallery and pantomime stage unchanged, its canvases rolled and its drawers of art materials undisturbed. Part of this magically incongruous space will be recreated at full scale in the exhibition.

Paris to Monaro will run from 31 May – 11 August 2013. The National Portrait Gallery is open 10am – 5pm daily.

For more information, contact the National Portrait Gallery by calling (02) 6102 7000, emailing info@npg.gov.au or visiting www.npg.gov.au.

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2 Responses to Paris to Monaro: Pleasures from the studio of Hilda Rix Nicholas @ The Portrait Gallery
#1
poetix2:58 pm, 26 May 13

It would be so nice to be eccentric AND rich…

Can’t say I like the unnecessary embellishment of telling us that the artist was ‘a very successful working mother’. How is that of interest?

The exhibition looks worth seeing, though.

#2
Pork Hunt5:08 pm, 26 May 13

poetix said :

It would be so nice to be eccentric AND rich…

Can’t say I like the unnecessary embellishment of telling us that the artist was ‘a very successful working mother’. How is that of interest?

The exhibition looks worth seeing, though.

Perhaps she was unique in that mothers didn’t work in those days? That she was “successful” is surely a compliment…

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