Artist Spotlight: Clarice Beckett

Before adopting Tonalism, Beckett graduated from the National Gallery School, studying under L. Bernard Hall and Frederick McCubbin in 1916. After leaving the school, she continued her studies with Max Meldrum, working with A.M.E. Bale, Colin Colahan, Percy Leason and Alma Figuerola. Unlike many of her other female counterparts who travelled abroad to further their studies in Europe, she chose to remain in Melbourne, unmarried, and her parents’ primary caregiver.

CLARICE BECKETT, Fine Art Leonard Joel Auctions
Beaumaris Seascape c.1928
oil on board
18 x 22cm

In 1919 Beckett’s family moved to Beaumaris where she lived and worked without a studio[1]. Despite not having a physical studio, Beckett made the outdoors her space with the opportune moments she had, painting en plein air. While prioritising her home duties, Beckett’s painting time was limited to the early hours of the morning and evenings. This work, Beaumaris Seascape c.1928 captures Beckett’s extraordinary skill with light and texture. Drawing out the warm tones from the Beaumaris coastline, Beckett effortlessly creates a complex palette of creamy yellows, pale greens, and crisp blues. This aspect invites the viewer to look through the scene while catching wisps of colour and movement, suggesting a warm breezy day.

The little time Beckett had to paint was cherished and did not arrest her development as an artist. Honing pace and consistency, Clarice managed a large output of works over a small period, exhibiting regularly with the Society of Twenty Melbourne Painters and the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors.

Clarice Beckett was perhaps the most important yet underappreciated woman artist during the 1920s and 1930s in Australia. Capturing Melbourne’s landscape and its most atmospheric nuances, Beckett’s works appear effortless, bringing a sincere and truthful representation of nature before her. Only since her rediscovery in the 1970s by Rosalind Hollinrake has she now been formally recognised and celebrated as one of the most important female artists and Tonalist innovators to capture Melbourne at a time of growth, making her an invaluable part of Australian art history.

LUCY FOSTER / Art Specialist

[1] Burke, J., Australian Women Artists 1840-1940, Greenhouse Publications, Melbourne, 1980, p. 160

Banner Image: CLARICE BECKETT (1887-1935) Beaumaris Seascape c.1928, oil on board, 18 x 22cm. $35,000-45,000

June 2022