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By Sharne Wolff
Portia Stranston Geach (1873–1959) was a forthright Australian woman and artist. An active feminist all her life, Geach campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and fought against the ‘closed front’ that female artists constantly encountered. A very keen traveller, she also established the Housewives Progressive Association of NSW, modelled on that of New York, which she visited in 1917. Named in honour of the late artist, the annual Portia Geach Memorial Award is open to female artists and was established in 1965 by Portia’s sister, Florence Geach who supported her sister’s assertion that women’s art had often been rejected or “hung in shadowy corners”.
Fifty-eight finalists were declared in this year’s Awardfor a “portrait painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters or the Sciences” – criteria that deliberately mimic the Archibald Prize. All works are on display at the SH Ervin Gallery. Queensland’s treble finalist Hélène Grove received the 2013 gong for Self Portrait Getting On, a beautifully composed meditation on the subject of becoming older, while Celeste Chandler’s Lovesick 3, honoured by judges Ben Quilty, Dr Lindy Lee and Jane Watters for its “luscious painterly qualities and unconventional approach to portraiture”, received a High Commendation.
Until November 17
National Trust S.H. Ervin Gallery
Pic: Celeste Chandler, Lovesick 3, oil on linen 81 x 76 cm
Courtesy the artist and S.H Ervin Gallery.
[Reference: Gavin Harris, ‘Portia and Her Prize’, Art & Australia v39, no. 1].
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