Group of Artists from Casterton, country Victoria, and further afield in Australia
Clarice Beckett was born in Casterton, Victoria in 1887. In about 1914, with the support of friends who were artists and her mother, despite her father’s resistance to the idea, she took drawing classes under Frederick McCubbin at Melbourne’s National Gallery School. McCubbin was a well-respected Australian painter and a leader in the impressionist movement. She later studied under Max Meldrum.
Her studies were cut short due to the ailing health of her parents, Clarice going to live with them in Beaumaris. Family duties and responsibilities curbed her personal freedom and allowed her little time for her art. Clarice’s painting time was confined to early mornings and evenings, times of muted light, which is evident in many of her works.
Although Clarice Beckett had a talent for portraiture, and her still life’s were publicly appreciated, she preferred to be outdoors, painting landscapes. In group shows and solo exhibitions, Beckett received very little encouragement or appreciation of her work from art critics of the time and sold little while she was alive.
Despite little public recognition while alive and a working artist, she now is recognised as one of Australia’s most important modernist painters. She produced works of simplicity and originality, setting her apart from other Australian artists of her time.
Clarice regarded herself as realist and depicted her truths in tonal works. In 1924 she declared that her task was “to give a sincere and truthful representation of a portion of the beauty of nature and to show the charm of light and shade … in correct tones so as to give as nearly as possible an exact illusion of beauty.”
In 1935, when out painting the wild sea off Beaumaris during a storm, Clarice caught a chill. Double pneumonia soon followed and four days later she died at the age of 48.
Beckett produced over 2,000 landscapes between 1917 and the time of her death. Most of these are no longer in existence, having been ‘stored’ in an open-sided barn for 40 years, destroyed by weather and rodents, before being rediscovered.
The Artists of the Valley host and sponsor the annual Clarice Beckett Art Award in a great Australian artist’s honour. The award, held in June during the Queen’s birthday weekend in Casterton, offers artists an opportunity to enter the award, to exhibit, and possibly sell some of their work – while they are alive. For details see Clarice Beckett Art Award post.