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Bennett, Portia Mary (1898 - 1989)

Born
28 January, 1898
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died
1 May 1989
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Occupation
Artist

Summary

Portia Bennett was born in Sydney in 1898. In 1913-14 she attended classes under Dattilo Rubbo at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, then won a scholarship to Julian Ashton's Sydney Art School, where she studied at night between 1915-1919. During the day she attended the Blackfriars Teachers College, where she taught art from 1921-5. In 1925 she married William Wallace and moved to Queensland and then, in 1932, came to Perth, Western Australia. Bennett helped found the Perth Society of Artists, working with Muriel Southern, Florence Hall and Margaret Johnson to establish a place for women artists in Western Australia.

Bennett's preference for architecture over painting as a career is reflected in her fascination with the city and modern recently constructed buildings, and she painted many watercolour studies of the architecture around Perth. This was also in keeping with a Modernist aesthetic - the city as centre for commerce, leisure and display - and a concommitant rejection of traditional pastoral landscapes as subjects for study. Bennett also used conventions of perspective but chose unusual vantage points, which allowed the foregrounding of certain objects which added an abstract quality to works that were highly realistic. As Dr. Sally Quin, curator of the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, observed, "Portia Bennett claims a unique place as observer and interpreter of the city." Bennett died in Perth in 1989, aged 91.

Sources used to compile this entry: Artist Profile: Portia Bennett 1898-1989 - The Holmes à Court Collection , The Way We Were: 1940s - 1950s, from the University of Western Australia art collection. Catalogue from an Exhibtion at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, 14 April 1996 - 30 March 1997. , Gray, Anna, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1996, http://www.holmesacourtgallery.com.au/collection/artist-profile.cfm?artist_id=58; Gooding, Janda, Western Australian Art and Artists 1900-1950 , Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, 1987; Quin, Sally, Approaches To Modernism: The Art Of Portia Bennett, Elise Blumann And Iris Francis 1930s To 1950s , Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, 2004.

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room

  • Biographical cuttings on Portia Bennett, painter, BIOG; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room. Details

Lisa MacKinney

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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