Ethel Carrick Fox and Emanuel Phillips Fox: A Historic Partnership

Fine Art & Objet D’Art formerly from the Estate of Graham Joel

(Gathering Hay)
oil on panel
34 x 26cm

Emanuel Phillips Fox and Ethel Carrick Fox remain two of Australia’s most revered Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters. Separately, their careers followed different paths each with varying success, but together they formed a partnership that has remained unmatched in the course of Australian art.

Emanuel Phillips Fox was born in 1865 in Melbourne. Following his studies at the National Gallery School alongside Rupert Bunny and Frederick McCubbin, he departed for Europe in search of artistic inspiration and further studies. After attending the Académie Julian in Paris, he travelled throughout France, England and even Spain. This exposure to the European art scene became a rite of passage for Australian artists following Emanuel. Upon returning to Australia in 1892, Emanuel now enjoyed a notable level of public recognition as an artist, although largely constricted to the output of portraits. Emanuel was commissioned by the National Gallery to paint the landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay. The bequest outlined that this must take place overseas, and so in 1901 Emanuel once more set off for Europe. After a period in Paris, Emanuel visited the open-air painting colony in St Ives, Cornwall, which is where it is believed he met his future wife, Ethel.

Born in England in 1872, Ethel Carrick Fox studied at the famous Slade Art School in London where she was encouraged to explore en plein air painting and the use of bright colours. Ethel was fascinated with the works of the Impressionist painters such as Monet and Pissarro. By the time she met Fox in Cornwall, perhaps as early as 1901, Ethel had successfully avoided the lures of marriage and motherhood. Fox was the husband she needed – a man just as devoted to his work as she was to hers, as opposed to the fulfillment of society’s familial expectations.

St Mark’s Square, Venice 1907
oil on panel
26 x 35cm
Sold for $66,000

Following their marriage in 1905, the couple settled in Paris, the centre of the art world. New ideas were born here and Ethel revelled in them, while Emanuel remained somewhat more contained. In Paris, Fox showed at the New Salon, while Carrick showed at the more radical Autumn Salon. Carrick was certainly the more daring of the two in both personality and artistic focus. She abandoned Impressionism in favour of the experimental colour and bold brushwork of what we now consider Post-Impressionism. In Carrick’s scenes, colour takes on its own distinct identity, creating a vivid pattern. Fox, by contrast, was a master of light and shadow – the result of his academic training. Ethel and Emanuel travelled together, and it is on these trips that we often see Emanuel’s more experimental works. In 1907 Ethel produced a master work of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, sold at Leonard Joel in 2015, also depicted by Emanuel in the same year. However, alongside his wife, Emanuel’s rendering of St Mark’s square is one of his less contained works. From these joint trips, we often see the two artist’s rendering their own impressions of the same scene around them.

Much to Ethel’s dismay, the couple returned to Melbourne. World War I prevented their return to Europe, and so Australia now became home. Sadly, their marriage was short-lived with Emanuel succumbing to cancer at the age of 50. Carrick became the perfect artist’s widow, campaigning persistently on behalf of Emanuel’s reputation organising countless posthumous exhibitions of his work. Emanuel Phillips Fox may now be considered a highly recognised artist in Australian art history however at the time of his death he was only recognised in Europe and it was largely due to the efforts of Ethel Carrick that he found a place in Australian art history at all.

While the focus for much of their partnership remained on Emanuel’s work, both artists are now considered each to be masters in their field. Separately, they would have undoubtedly remained as very talented painters but together their partnership saw their work extend to even greater heights with a now enduring legacy in Australian art history.

Leonard Joel is honoured to present a very special selection of paintings by both Ethel Carrick Fox and Emanuel Phillips Fox in May, from the Fine Art & Objet D’Art formerly from the Estate of Graham Joel collection.

Olivia Fuller  / Head of Art

March 2021