Heliodore Hawthorne

Heliodore, also known as Brendorah or ‘Dore’  Hawthorne, was a modernist Painter born in Sydney on the 31 August 1895, ninth child in a family of 10.

In 1920-21 she enrolled at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School as an evening student while supporting herself by working as a designer of patterns in an embroidery factory during the day. Her teachers at the school included Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar.
A promising student, she was quickly promoted from the Antique to the Life Class. The 1920s were exciting years, with knowledge of overseas developments in art filtering back to Australia. Dore was an early member of the Art Students’ Club, formed in 1923 as a forum for discussion of new art trends. In 1925 she and Nancy Hall established Undergrowth: A Magazine of Youth and Ideals , which came out bi-monthly until its demise in 1929. Dore’s November-December 1927 cover shows a woman watching a man at an easel (ill. Butler, SBD , 8).From humble beginnings Undergrowth became the voice of modernism in Sydney. During this time Dore also attended Roland Wakelin’s drawing and painting classes.

Like many women artists of her generation Dore Hawthorne never married. Unlike many others, however, she had no independent means of support and lived frugally. She possessed a strong social conscience and was particularly interested in C.H. Douglas’s economic theory of Social Credit, which stated that mal-distribution of wealth was the cause of economic depressions and had led the world into a long series of wars.

In the mid-1930s she obtained a position teaching art at Frensham School in Mittagong but found the routine stifling and left after several years (cf. Ruth Ainsworth ). About this time she built a cottage for herself in the Burragorang Valley, northwest of Sydney, an area in which she had made many walking trips with friends. Soon after the outbreak of World War II she applied for a job at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which manufactured Bren guns. She painted her Factory Folk series under the pseudonym ‘Brendorah’, conflating her name and the gun that dominated her life.

When her employment was terminated in April 1945 she returned to Sydney.
In Sydney Dore ‘lived with excruciating frugality, great creative energy and a Spartan spirit’ and this may have contributed to her collapse in 1968. Afterwards she lived in a convalescent home in Manly until her death on 23 July 1977. Nancy Hall wrote in a tribute to her friend in 1978:

Dore felt the ugliness of materialism and pollution as keenly as she felt everything that was fine and beautiful and much of her painting and writing was a great cry of protest.