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Type: Conference paper
Title: The Australian War Museum, women artists and the national memory of the First World War
Author: Speck, C.
Citation: When the Soldiers Return: November 2007 Conference Proceedings, Brisbane, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, University of Queensland, 2009 / Martin Crotty (ed.): pp.277-290
Publisher: UQ
Publisher Place: Australia
Issue Date: 2009
ISBN: 9781864999273
Conference Name: When the Soldiers Return (2007 : Brisbane, Queensland)
Statement of
Catherine Speck
Abstract: At the end of the First World War most people’s thoughts turned to putting the war behind them, but a small group of military historians began work in earnest on developing a national collection of art and other memorabilia related to the war. This paper explores how in the immediate postwar years women artists attempted with varying degrees of success to have their portrayals of the war included in the new national collection. Artists Hilda Rix Nicholas, Vida Lahey, Dora Ohlfsen and Dora Meeson all offered work to the new War Museum; some were successful, others less so. Rix Nicholas’s paintings of soldiers were rejected but her grief stricken Mother of France was accepted; Vida Lahey’s painting of women — some mourning, some rejoicing was not. Dora Ohlfsen’s exquisite medallions of soldiers were not acquired, whereas Meeson and her partner George Coates were commissioned to produce a painting of historical moment of Australia’s Generals in Egypt. This paper examines these paintings and their mixed fortunes. What emerges is the careful shaping of national memory around Charles Bean’s vision for the Australian War Museum, and the limited place women’s art had in this new collection, and how the iconography of the women’s art collected differed from that in the major Australian galleries at this time.
Rights: © 2009 The Author
RMID: 0020097304
Published version:;dn=726083344546907;res=IELHSS
Appears in Collections:History publications

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