Group of Artists from Casterton, country Victoria, and further afield in Australia
Clarice Beckett at work en plein air
Begun in 2012, the Clarice Beckett Art Award was instigated to honour artist, Clarice Beckett, born in Casterton in 1887.
It wasn’t until the age of 27, Clarice began her formal art training. With the help and support of artist friends and her mother, Beckett surmounted her father’s objections and attended the National Gallery School of Victoria in Melbourne. There, she studied under Frederick McCubbin, one of Australia’s leaders of the country’s impressionist school. She later went on to study under Max Meldrum, who once stated, “There would never be a great woman artist and there never had been. Woman had not the capacity to be alone.” Such was the overall opinion at the time. Struggling against the societal tide, Beckett was continually put down by the critics.
The simplicity and originality of her style, and choice of often seemingly mundane subjects, set her apart from any other artist working in Australia at that time. Hailed by few and criticised by many, Beckett died at the young age of 48, as a result of illness brought on while outside painting during a storm. She sold few works in her lifetime, despite her dedication to her art.
The significance of Beckett’s subtle work was soon forgotten, and her paintings put in storage in various locations. In a chance encounter in the 1960s Rosalind Hollinrake discovered some mysterious but compelling canvases signed C.Beckett. Embarking upon a search for the identity behind this unfamiliar name, her quest eventually led her to an open-sided barn in the Victorian countryside – and the horrible sight of 1200 rotting Clarice Beckett paintings, the majority of which had been destroyed by almost 40 years of exposure to the elements and rodents. Another 31 were destroyed in a house-fire.
Beckett produced over 2,000 evocative landscapes from 1917 until her premature death in 1935. Posthumous exhibitions and retrospectives have given this long-neglected artist the recognition she is due.
Clarice Beckett said of her own work, “My pictures like music should speak for themselves.” She serves as an inspiration to all artists, the Award in her honour offering artists of all ilks the opportunity of a ‘fair go’.