More than a memory—the art of Elizabeth Parsons
Elizabeth Parsons was one of the first professional women artists to work in Victoria and exhibited with Heidelberg School artists Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder.
After migrating to Melbourne in 1870 from England, she quickly established a name for herself as a professional artist. Elizabeth began teaching Melbourne’s aspiring young artists from her home studio, with her classes becoming increasingly popular as her reputation grew. Her landscape paintings were also represented in several major Melbourne and international exhibitions.
Elizabeth was the first and only woman to be elected to the prestigious Victorian Academy of Art council, a position she held for two years. She was also the only woman artist amongst those whose works were selected for inclusion in the Art Union of Victoria’s 1880 illustrated publication of Henry Kendall’s poem, Orara. In an era when men dominated the Melbourne art world, these were significant achievements.
Her paintings were primarily landscapes, based on the principles of plein air painting where artists draw directly from nature. These works can be considered precursors to the art of a new generation of artists that emerged during the mid-1880s, known collectively as the Heidelberg School, including Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder. Elizabeth also joined the semi-Bohemian artistic and literary Buonarotti Club, that included a number of the Heidelberg artists as well as later starting her own society, ‘Stray Leaves’, where young people could discuss art, literature and music.
More than a memory—the art of Elizabeth Parsons included over fifty-five works—mainly watercolours—showing the depth and range of this extraordinary woman.