In Focus: Jessie Traill’s ‘View from Old Temple Court’

Lot 28
JESSIE TRAILL (1881-1967)
View from Old Temple Court 1923
etching 18/30

Jessie Traill is one of Australia’s most important 20th Century printmakers, and we are delighted to present two exceptionally rare examples of her printmaking practice in our upcoming Prints and Multiples auction in November. In particular, her View from Old Temple Court, made in 1923.

In 1909, Jessie moved to a studio at 43 Temple Court, Collins Street in Melbourne’s bustling CBD, where she practiced for nearly 15 years, breaking up her studio time between the bustling city and her rural studio at Harkaway, a five-acre block she purchased in 1912 with her sister, Elsie.

In 1909, she wrote to fellow artist and friend Tom Roberts about her search for a studio space in Melbourne, and shortly after began renting at Temple Court, a three storey building built in 1859, a studio space also occupied by artist Dora Wilson, Janet Cumbrae-Stewart, Nora Gurdon and AME Bale. In another letter to Tom Roberts, Jessie’s fond feelings towards her space are expressed as she writes, ‘I will never find such a dear big, dirty place as my dear no. 43’. (Jessie Traill, Letter to Tom Roberts, 19th March 1913, Tom Roberts Papers/Correspondence and Manuscripts, SLNSW, A2480, vol. 3, quoted in Oliver, Jo, ‘Jessie Traill: A Biography’ (2020), Arden.)

Jessie Traill (1881-1967)
Market Street, Melbourne
oil on canvas
State Library of Victoria

Her studio at Temple Court was demolished in July of 1923 and this etching was made in the final months she spent there before she moved to another location. Whilst this 15 year period was not spent solely at this studio space, as Traill travelled to London in 1915 and worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) nurse, spending three years working in England and in decimated French towns until the Armistice at the end of 1918, I do believe that this space was an important and formative space for the young artist as she began her formidable career.

Ella Perrottet, Art Assistant

November 2020