Working almost exclusively in the printmaking technique of etching, Jessie Traill forged a path for women artists and indeed all printmakers across Australia in the first half of the 20th Century. Growing up in the bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Traill had an appreciation early in her life for the natural landscape, with the beauty she saw in it later being depicted in her work, throughout her career as an artist.
Traill was brought up in wealthy household. This gave her the unique opportunity to travel widely, resulting in her extended exploration of Europe in the 1900s at the beginning of her career. She studied with Anglo-Welsh artist Frank Brangwyn in London, where he encouraged her to use larger printing plates and highly contrasting shape and line work, resulting in her first striking urban scenes.
Traill’s further exploration of etching when she returned to Australia in the 1910s and 1920s had a focus on the natural landscape, often featuring stark, sentinel like eucalypts guarding a still, quiet hillside, as depicted in The West Window (1922). In capturing the essence of her rural surroundings, she imbued it with a warmth and sense of familiarity. Traill created many poetic but humble etchings from her immediate environment.
In the late 1920s, Traill’s long-lasting interest in documenting the industrial landscape began, leading her to frequently travel to Sydney to record and study the transforming skyline of the city.
These seminal works paved the way for her later depictions in the 1940s of urban landscapes. These works were much more brooding and featured fractured, black silhouettes of the wartime Edinburgh horizon, seen in Black Out (1940). Traill had at this time relocated to Britain during the Second World War and produced many prints depicting the urban environment held hostage to this calamitous event.
These prints and more are featured within our Prints & Multiples July auction, highlighting definitive points in the career of Jessie Traill, of one of the true pioneers of Australian women in art.
HANNAH RYAN / Prints & Multiples Manager