Isabel McWhannell

Isabel McWhannell Born: 1883- Died: 1919

Born at ‘Rodney Downs’ Aramac, Queensland.
Her father was a Western Queensland pioneer who arrived from Scotland in in 1863. Within 10 years he was operating 4 large scale cattle and sheep properties in the Aramac/Longreach district. Following his death in 1888 the family moved to Sydney where Isabel completed her schooling.
As a teenager Isabel took a keen interest in drawing and painting. She was sent to the Sydney Art School where under the eye of Julian Ashton and Sydney Long she proved to be a student of great promise. In particular she had a very close relationship with Sid Long for many years. She began to exhibit works in 1902. Her work carries a clear influence of Sid Long’s decorative romanticism, but is only an influence, not a domination, for there constantly appears a variation towards a more personal vision.
She is perhaps less widely known because her paintings were comparatively few- not more than a dozen  (1902-1914). She was part of the foundation group of women artists which the first decade of the 20th century produced. They included, Ethel Stephens, Maud Russell, Amy Vale, Florence Rodway, Gladys Owen and Thea Proctor. Among her fellow artists she was popular as much for her loveable character as for her devotion to painting.
Isobel’s health declined sharply from 1914 and she spent her final years at the Pines Private Hospital Randwick where she died on the 27th of June 1919 aged 36 years.
It is estimated that only a few dozen of her paintings were ever sold. the balance of her works which number 70-80 were in the possession of her brothers family home in Rose Bay, Sydney. They were discovered in 2006 when the last of the family left the home.
Isobel’s works are represented in the Australian National Gallery, Geelong Art Gallery, Cruther’s Collection, University of Western Australia and Howard Hinton Art Collection, Armidale.
Exhibitions:
Artists Society of NSW 1907 (Exhibiting with Arthur Streeton, Julian Ashton, JJ Hilder and Sid Long)
Art Society of NSW
Exhibition of Women’s Art, Exhibition Building, Melbourne 1907
Society of Artists Exhibition. Queen Victoria Markets, Sydney 1909
Society of Artists,Sydney 1911
Society of Womens Painters. Royal Arts Society Galleries, Sydney Oct 1912
Julian Ashton’s Show at Society of Artists Rooms. Queen Victoria Markets, Sydney. May, 1914
War Fund Art Union. Royal Arts Society Galleries. March 1915
‘Miss Isabel McWhannell’s landscape is infused with a fantastic spirit which pleases’.
(Sydney Morning Herald, p.9 9 March 1915)
Isabell McWhannell. Day Fine Art
(NLA, Sydney Mail. 1907.p558)

Newspaper article:

Aussie art’s forgotten collection

By Elizabeth Fortescue, DailyTelegraph

November 14, 2007 12:00am

A CACHE of Edwardian-era paintings which languished for decades in an old Sydney house has caused an art-market stir and rekindled interest in a long-forgotten artist.

Isabel McWhannell was 36 when she died in Randwick in 1919. Her career was brief but she produced beautiful landscapes – two of which were acquired by the National Gallery of Australia in 1979 and 1987.

About 80 of McWhannell’s watercolours and oil paintings have been recovered from a Rose Bay house where the McWhannells, including Isabel’s brother, have lived since 1928.

The pictures were discovered by the artist’s great nephew James Morrow when the last of his aunts left the house in 2004.

Mr Morrow said he had no idea the pictures were in the house, although his mother Dulce Morrow said she had always been aware of them.

Thirty-three of the paintings are on display at the Christopher Day Gallery in Paddington, where the exhibition has sold out at prices between $4400 and $8800. All buyers were issued with a certificate of authenticity from the family.

Mr Morrow found the paintings while cleaning out the house.

“In one of the rooms we found a lot of these canvases just lying there and that’s when I thought, ‘Well, hell, we have got to do something about this’,” Mr Morrow said.

“We found them all over the place, in cupboards and drawers.”

Conservator Sarah Stuart-Jones worked on some of the paintings before they were exhibited. She said the works were in good condition “considering their age and neglect”.

“Some were very, very dirty and some were just pieces of loose canvas,” Ms Stuart-Jones said.

Mr Morrow said the family still had about 60 of McWhannell’s paintings.

Mr Morrow believes no more than “a dozen or so” of McWhannell’s paintings were sold in her lifetime.

The Rose Bay house remains in the family and Mr Morrow, of Double Bay, plans to live there.

Curator Geoffrey Smith, who opened the exhibition, said he had never heard of McWhannell until a few months ago. The exhibition was “a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of Australian art”, Mr Smith said.

McWhannell was born on her father’s Queensland property Rodney Downs in 1883. In 1888, the family moved to Sydney where McWhannell studied art under Julian Ashton.

Dulce Morrow, 88, of Vaucluse, said Isabel McWhannell, her father’s sister, was known for her loveable nature.

Art Gallery of NSW curator Barry Pearce, who has never seen McWhannell’s work, said: “Her story must be the same as hundreds of young aspirants of her time, who would only be remembered if their work was preserved through families over time.”

 

Newspaper article:

Aussie art’s forgotten collection

By Elizabeth Fortescue, DailyTelegraph

November 14, 2007 12:00am

A CACHE of Edwardian-era paintings which languished for decades in an old Sydney house has caused an art-market stir and rekindled interest in a long-forgotten artist.

Isabel McWhannell was 36 when she died in Randwick in 1919. Her career was brief but she produced beautiful landscapes – two of which were acquired by the National Gallery of Australia in 1979 and 1987.

About 80 of McWhannell’s watercolours and oil paintings have been recovered from a Rose Bay house where the McWhannells, including Isabel’s brother, have lived since 1928.

The pictures were discovered by the artist’s great nephew James Morrow when the last of his aunts left the house in 2004.

Mr Morrow said he had no idea the pictures were in the house, although his mother Dulce Morrow said she had always been aware of them.

Thirty-three of the paintings are on display at the Christopher Day Gallery in Paddington, where the exhibition has sold out at prices between $4400 and $8800. All buyers were issued with a certificate of authenticity from the family.

Mr Morrow found the paintings while cleaning out the house.

“In one of the rooms we found a lot of these canvases just lying there and that’s when I thought, ‘Well, hell, we have got to do something about this’,” Mr Morrow said.

“We found them all over the place, in cupboards and drawers.”

Conservator Sarah Stuart-Jones worked on some of the paintings before they were exhibited. She said the works were in good condition “considering their age and neglect”.

“Some were very, very dirty and some were just pieces of loose canvas,” Ms Stuart-Jones said.

Mr Morrow said the family still had about 60 of McWhannell’s paintings.

Mr Morrow believes no more than “a dozen or so” of McWhannell’s paintings were sold in her lifetime.

The Rose Bay house remains in the family and Mr Morrow, of Double Bay, plans to live there.

Curator Geoffrey Smith, who opened the exhibition, said he had never heard of McWhannell until a few months ago. The exhibition was “a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of Australian art”, Mr Smith said.

McWhannell was born on her father’s Queensland property Rodney Downs in 1883. In 1888, the family moved to Sydney where McWhannell studied art under Julian Ashton.

Dulce Morrow, 88, of Vaucluse, said Isabel McWhannell, her father’s sister, was known for her loveable nature.

Art Gallery of NSW curator Barry Pearce, who has never seen McWhannell’s work, said: “Her story must be the same as hundreds of young aspirants of her time, who would only be remembered if their work was preserved through families over time.”