Often overlooked because of her famous father, Nora was born in 1911, the fourth of eight children, and grew up at the Cedars, near Hahndorf.
Nora battled criticism from men throughout her career. Despite this, her talent was obvious from an early age, and by the time she was twenty she had work hanging in three state galleries. She and her father had a verbal agreement not to trespass, too much, into each other’s territories. She would leave the landscapes to him, and stick to portraiture and still life.
She was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Always a contentious prize, her win was widely criticised. Max Meldrum, a well-known artist and art teacher of the time remarked that ‘… to expect them (women) to do some things equally as well as men is sheer lunacy …’.
She was the first Australian woman to be appointed as an official war artist. Coming from a family that weren’t supportive of the war, she brought an unconventional and original perspective to the role.
After her early success, she was mostly overlooked by the Australian art community, partly because of trends in painting away from the figurative towards abstraction, but also because she wasn’t a self-promoter and never sought celebrity. She was impatient with press reports that focused on her gender and family background. She simply wanted to paint what she wanted to. Recently in a gallery in Hobart, I saw salon hang of a collection of portraits, one of Nora’s amongst them, and was struck by just how contemporary it was and how it stood out, especially compared to other work from the same period.
This print references both her 1938 Archibald-winning portrait of Adine Michele Elink Schuurman, and one of her many self-portraits, this one from 1932 when she was 21.
Image is 24 x 29 cm, printed on paper approx 32 x 39 cm.