Art dealers and garage sale scavengers rejoice!

Artist M.O. Stoddart
A successful New Zealand artist, Miss M.O. Stoddart

If you’ve ever wondered about the painting you bought on a whim for a few dollars from the local school fair a new 4 volume art reference work might have the answer, as long as the painting has a signature.

The Society of Women Artists Exhibitors 1855-1996 is an important addition to the Central Library’s art collection and provides further fodder for researching minor artists who would otherwise remain elusive, even from the long reach of the Internet.

Published under the editorship of the indefatigable Charles Baile de Laperriere this welcome purchase adds to the other two reference works from the Hilmarton Manor Press reviewed in last November’s issue.

 The Society of Women Artists, first founded in London in 1855 as the Society of Female Artists, was intended to give women the chance to display and sell their art at a time when it was unthinkable for a woman to have a career.  The excellent history of the Society at the beginning of Volume 1 describes the strong support it received from women eager to receive recognition for their artistic talents.

Artists such as Dame Laura Knight achieved great success.  Others, though proficient, remained relatively anonymous and have probably been saved from obscurity by this work.  What’s fairly certain, however, is that much of the work they produced is still in existence, gracing spaces and walls both private and public, lying neglected in attics or turning up in salerooms and at garage sales.  And it’s entirely possible that some found their way to New Zealand among the belongings of new settlers.

Artists’ entries are listed in dictionary fashion.  Each entry has surname and married names (cross-indexed), Christian names, style, discipline (painter, engraver etc), addess(es), years exhibiting, catalogue numbers and titles of work as they appeared in the official catalogue, medium and price.

Like its stable mates reviewed in the November issue, the new reference work with its personal details of exhibitors is also a valuable genealogical tool.

Gillian Roncelli
Info Centre

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