A recurring figure in our annual Women Artists auction is Melbourne painter and staunch modernist, Dorothy Braund. Featured in this year’s auction are three oil paintings by Braund which date to the period she was attending classes with George Bell, right at the beginning of her career. An avid traveller, Braund sought inspiration around the world and furthered her education abroad in the 1950s. Inspired by simplicity and clean lines, her works are generally void of almost all forms of ornamentation and retain a toned back palette which we see in each example featured in this year’s auction.
Portraiture is something that Braund is not particularly well regarded for, however her portraits are compelling and well executed, albeit not regularly seen on the auction market. In the early stages of her career as an artist, Braund produced a number of successful portraits. The most notable of these is of her close friend and fellow artist Barbara Brash from 1967 which was entered in the Portia Geach Memorial Award. Another notable example is a fine double portrait of John Brack’s wife Helen Maudsley with their daughter Freda which Braund executed in 1956. Lot 46 in the auction presents a remarkable and striking self portrait of Dorothy Braund from the 1960s. The portrait is an unusual subject for the artist, someone who rarely depicted herself, to the point it could be suggested the painting may have been an exercise whilst a student with the George Bell School. Each of these portraits show a restrained palette, strong form and have Braund’s signature ‘flatness’ which features in her paintings for the duration of her lengthy career.
In the 1950s and 1960s Braund travelled extensively within Europe and the Far East. Eastern cultures are frequently depicted in Braund’s paintings of the period, with a previous offering at Leonard Joel, ‘Street Dwellers, Karachi’, exemplifying her talent in rendering flowing garments with a cubist twist. Her fascination with Greece culminated in several trips to the Greek Isles which undoubtedly inspired lot 107 in this year’s auction, ‘Santorini’, which dates to 1959. This distinctly ‘Braund’ work depicts limewashed buildings, including a Greek Orthodox church, overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. The oil on board work comes from The Estate of the Artist and retains its original whitewashed timber frame which echoes the subject matter beautifully.
The human form is likely the most recurring subject matter of Dorothy Braund’s practice. Throughout her career she has produced an abundance of works incorporating two or more shapely figures in the same artwork. Her most notable paintings, especially toward the end of her life, were her ‘Bathers’ which showed men, women and children at the beach in swimming attire. Braund also favoured football players in striped jerseys and figures wearing jeans. These later works were often watercolour and gouache on paper, which Braund took preference to in the tail end of her career.
Lot 108, ‘Women Fishing’, in this year’s Women Artists auction portrays a huddled group of women and dates to 1966. The figures are again distinctly Braund, with the tonal work immediately identifiable as being of the artist’s hand. The colour palette Braund has implemented in this work is perhaps inspired by her fascination with the Far East and Asia which were lifelong sources of inspiration.
Dorothy Braund has duly earned her place as not only a pioneering Australian female painter but also as a strict modernist with a very distinctive and authentic style unlike any of her contemporaries. Braund was noted to have said in 1979, ‘the collectors aren’t interested… it means that people buy my paintings because they like them, not because they are good investments’. This exemplifies one of the main purposes of the annual Women Artists auction at Leonard Joel, to bring recognition to female artists who did not necessarily gain the notoriety or fame they deserved in their lifetime. Represented in several national and regional galleries throughout Australia, we are proud to present to the market three excellent examples of works by Dorothy Braund.
JAMES STANTON / Art Registrar & Researcher
Banner Image (detail): § Dorothy Braund (1926-2013) (Women Fishing) 1966, oil on board, 29.5 x 40cm | $4,000-5,000 | © Courtesy of the Estate of Dorothy Braund