Group of Artists from Casterton, country Victoria, and further afield in Australia
Several of our members recently attended a book launch in Casterton. Written by historian Bernard Wallace, ‘Some Significant Women of Portland and Victoria’s Southwest’ features, among other notable women of the district, our own Clarice Beckett (21 March 1887 – 7 July 1935). NB: Sincere thanks to Bernard Wallace for the photo of ‘our Clarice’.
Like so many women artists of her time, Beckett’s dedication, style, and the merits of her work went largely unsung during her lifetime. It was a short life, and one in which her art took a backseat to caring for her ageing and ill parents. Despite the limitations imposed by her circumstances, Beckett’s passion for art remained unquenchable. Her atmospheric paintings were born not only from her particular ‘tonal’ style, but also from the times of day, when she stole a few hours to pursue her passion – early morning and late in the day, as the light was fading.
With little or no support or encouragement from family, derision from art critics and cut off from peers, Clarice Beckett persisted in following the urging of her heart and soul. She ignored the social conventions of the time, preferring to paint when she could, rather than marry, bear children and ‘keep house’ – the accepted options for middle-class women of her era, Living with her parents, permitted only the kitchen table to work at when home, and venturing out in all weather with her handmade cart of painting materials, she amassed a huge body of work. After her death, at age 47, caused by contracting pneumonia when caught in a storm while out painting, her work was forgotten.
It wasn’t until 1970, when roughly two thousand of her paintings were discovered in a rural shed – many beyond saving or restoration – that Clarice Beckett achieved after death what she could not in life, acceptance of her work and individual style, and acknowledgement for her talent and dedication.
The annual Clarice Beckett Art Award, run by Artists of the Valley, based in Casterton where Beckett was born, is our way of celebrating her as an artist and a woman dedicated to her art.