Mary Cockburn MERCER, not titled [Female figure] Enlarge 1 /1

Mary Cockburn MERCER

Scotland 1882 – France 1963

  • Australia c.1882-c.1900, 1938-52

not titled [Female figure] (1925-35) Place made: Capri, Campania, Napoli province, Isola di Capri, Italy
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour Support: paper

Primary Insc: signed and inscribed lower right in watercolour 'Cockburn. Mercer./ Capri.' not dated.
Tertiary Insc: inscribed verso lower right rubber stamp 'R'; pencil, '10.06.99', '27' [in circle], and 'RS/SD'.
Dimensions: sheet 35.2 h x 25.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2000
Accession No: NGA 2000.94
  • Mr and Mrs Schlicht, England.
  • By descent to Rollin Schlicht, Sydney.
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney, May 2000.

Female figure a sensuous and beautifully spare modernist work, was painted while Mercer was living on the Italian island of Capri. After leaving her husband in France, she mingled here with the fashionable lesbian set – epitomised in Compton Mackenzie’s 1927 satire Extraordinary women.Mercer flaunted her sexual ambiguity and the subject of this study may have been one of her lovers. The subtle wash of the flesh and the dishevelled state of the drapery as it falls loosely over the body heightens the sensuality of this beautiful work.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra