Florence Dearling: Landscapes and Figure Studies

FLORENCE DEARLING Leonard Joel Auction
FLORENCE DEARLING, Portrait of a Woman (Headmistress), oil on canvas on board, 50 x 40cm. $300 – 500

The Art Salon is honoured to present a collection of works by Australian woman artist Florence Dearling (1895 – 1988), to lead the auction this week on Thursday 10 February 2022. The collection of fourteen artworks features landscapes and figure studies painted in Melbourne using oil paints, the artist’s preferred subject matter and medium. Many of the artist’s works remained in her home after she passed away and were sold by distant relatives, which is where the artworks in this collection were acquired.

Florence Dearling was a notably prolific artist who studied and exhibited widely across Australia at the West Australian Society of Artists, the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors and the Victorian Artists Society and held solo exhibitions in the 1920s in Perth and at the Park Gallery Melbourne in 1947. Florence later exhibited and sold pieces by word of mouth and social contacts at a gallery she set up at her house in Heidelberg.

FLORENCE DEARLING Leonard Joel Auction
FLORENCE DEARLING, Great Ocean Road, oil on canvas board, 17.5 x 23cm. $300 – 500

Studying art in Adelaide and Melbourne and earlier at Claremont Teachers College and the West Australian School of Art, Florence also worked as a teacher for the West Australian Education Department in 1914-1915. In Sydney she studied with Dattilo Rubbo and Will Ashton at the school run by the Royal Art Society c1922-1923. Ashton’s late Heidelberg School Impressionism style became central to her practice. Her petite landscapes are particularly well executed, the brushstrokes are lively, and the sense of light and form is very evocative.

By 1941, Florence enrolled at the National Gallery of Victoria School with Will Rowell, Charles Wheeler and Sir William Dargie as teachers. At her 1947 solo exhibition, Clive Turnbull thought that she was “a promising young painter”, (although she was in her early 50s), and the Age remarked “Although her sketches are naturally of mixed quality, there is nevertheless a feeling of spaciousness and atmosphere throughout, an indication that Miss Dearling’s work is basically sound.” (11 November 1947) In the later 1950s Florence studied with George Bell, whom she regarded as the best art teacher she had worked with and who influenced her to paint a number of Modernist works, however Impressionist landscapes were her favoured style.

FLORENCE DEARLING Leonard Joel Auction
FLORENCE DEARLING, Vivid Mountainscape, oil on canvas, 33.5 x 44.5cm. $400 – 600

In 1958 she was part of a group who presented an all women show at the Victorian Artists Society, an unusual event for that decade, as male artists dominated all sectors of the professional art world.

Highlights from this collection include the petite landscape Great Ocean Road (Lot 1). The frame is unique and simplistic in its modern style and complements the temperament of the work, without detracting from the piece itself. The coloured burgundy highlights in the foreground juxtaposed with the vivid greens and blues of the coastal scene, create a sense of balance and serenity in this peaceful scene of nature.

Another work to note is Vivid Moutainscape (Lot 3), my personal favourite. The Impressionist brushstrokes, the rolling hills, soft tactile clouds that reflect the shadows of the mountains and the pastel tones of violets, blues, and greens, harmonise across the canvas and captivate the viewer’s eye.

I would also like to highlight one of Florence’s portraits in this collection as she was renowned for her figure studies in addition to her landscapes. In the Portrait of a Woman (Lot 13), the sitter appears as a Headmistress, portrayed by her school teacher manner of dress and stern facial expression; motifs often used for such portraits. However, the red cardigan which matches the woman’s rouge lipstick, and her glistening pearl earrings are additional touches that seek to soften the women’s austere nature.

This week’s Art Salon presents a unique opportunity to view works by Florence Dearling. Only a small number of her artworks have appeared on the secondary market over the last 30 years, as many are held in private collections across Australia.

Browse the full catalogue of works online from Wednesday 9th February.

Amanda North / Art Salon Manager
Juliette Peers / Historian

Banner Image: Florence Dearling, Great Ocean Road, Oil on Canvas Board, 17.5 X 23cm. $300-500

February 2022