Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Nancy Grant, continued

Nancy Grant 
Modernist Australian painter, drawer and printmaker

Thanks to reader Ruby Tuesday and some follow-up research today I’d like to share some first results following last weeks (before) posting. I've found in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia 12 linocuts (with plan drawings!) by painter and printmaker John Flexmore (1911-2003) donated by Nancy Grant with her own work in 1996 (two years before she died). 

Sadly they are not on-line, but the one above and this sleeping cat sketch are. Was it meant to be for a print ? I've send a request to the National Gallery making them available on line since they look to me interesting and promising enough.   
A 2010 article commemorating Mary Grant’s figure drawings mentions Nancy's acquaintance with Australian artists Dorothy Braund (1926) who painted her portrait. A portrait of printmaker Barbara Brash was on display at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery in Western Australia and is now in the Cruthers Collection of Women's Art at the university of Western Australia. The works of printmaker Barbara Brash (1925-1998) (below) can be found also in the National Gallery. 

I've discovered all these artists and that other fine Australian printmaker Mabel Pye (1894-1982) had been students in the National Gallery Art School of Victoria in Melbourne (est. 1867). Nancy Grant attended classes from 1934-1936. These two prints below are by Mabel Pye:

In the Institute besides the very interesting and influential teachers Charles Wheeler (1881-1977) and William Beckwith (W.B.) McInnes (1889-1939) also taught George (Frederick Henry) Bell (1878-1966), war artist (1914-18), painter, printmaker, art critic, musician, writer and teacher. These two prints by him.
Bell had studied in that same Melbourne NGV (1895-1903), went abroad, studied in Europe and in the late 1920’s in the Grosvenor School in London, esth. in 1925 and lead by its founder Iain McNab (1890-1967). Bell, now a teacher at the NGV, returning from England  started his own private school in Melbourne in 1932. All printmakers and painters mentioned followed classes with him there. Nancy Grant was there from 1947-1952.

Nancy Grant in Australia is mostly remembered not for her linocuts (tucked away in the Gallery) but for her modernist figure drawing, inspired in the beginning by her NGV teachers and later by George Bell, Modigliani, Brancusi and Australian painter Ian Fairweather. And probably by her painting colleagues and friends Flexmore, Brash and Braund.
 Reclining nude by Nancy Grant (upper), Henri Matisse (left) and Amadeo Modigliani (right)

Most if not all modernist Australian printmakers and other artist of the period seem to have followed either in England (Ethel Spowers,  (1890-1947) Eveline Syme (1881-1961) and Bell himself) or in Bell’s Melbourne school courses, classes and modernist education. The Bell School might be considered a satellite influence in Australia even long after the flame of the Grosvenor School in London had died out in the late thirties.
Ethel Spowers
Eveline Syme
I’ve chosen just a few illustrations for this posting but discovered so many hardly ever (never?) seen prints and paintings I’ve planned for the near future several posting on these wonderful related group of inspiring Australian artists.   

For further reading see several expert articles on Grosvenor School artists in Modern Printmakers (Link) and here you'll find a good biography on George Bell (Link)

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use.


  1. Hi Gerrie,

    You are bold, communicating with the museum - treating it like a public library. Oh, wait, it probably has the same mission as a library - to educate and share its holdings. Silly me.

    Odd, Nancy Grant is remembered more for reclining nudes - so yesterday and common - than for her more original woodcuts. I like John Flexnmore's print at the top.

    I really enjoy your research findings.

    Karen Charbonneau

    1. Well, so much of their great collection IS online, so why not ask politely? I've met so many great artist and great works through this quest and querry, I'm still digesting and sorting things out. I'm glad you enjoy, because there's more to come.

  2. I can understand your enthusiasm with all these wonderful prints turning up. Looking at the Daschund Bell had an unusual sense of humour, I would love that on my wall. Good luck with the national gallery.

    1. We'll see ....., but I'm positive about it and will share the moment I have received an answer. Judging from his prints Bell must have had a Dachshund to understand it's nature (and anatomy). He's made several and I'll show them when I do a posting on his other work.

  3. All these paintings are most beautiful, thanks for sharing this kind of information.

    1. Your comment is very much appreciated, thank you.