Ballarat, Victoria, Australia 1884 – Delegate, New South Wales, Australia 1961
Paris, Île-de-France, France
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
In Une Australienne, Hilda Rix Nicholas deliberately chose to identify her subject as an Australian woman. The woman, dressed in the height of fashion, looks assertively out of the picture, with a powerful, if haughty, presence. Her elegance and physicality is conveyed through her pose, the turn of her head, the strain of her neck muscle and the hand gently resting on her thigh.
This was one of eight pictures Rix Nicholas showed in the Salon of 1926. The Salon judges were impressed, and she was made an Associate of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts as a result. On receiving this honour, Rix Nicholas commented in a letter to Charles Robert Chisman, ‘I wish above all things … to associate my work with the portrayal of my own sunny land and her peoples’.
The subject of Une Australienne is Rix Nicholas’s friend Dorothy Richmond, whom she had met in Sydney around 1919. It was with Richmond that Rix Nicholas first travelled to Delegate on the southern border of New South Wales, where she began to paint Australian landscapes. While staying in the area at the property of the Wrights, she developed a close friendship with Ned Wright and his cousin Edgar. In 1924, Rix Nicholas and Richmond travelled to Europe, sharing a studio in Paris. After returning to Australia in 1926, Rix Nicholas went back to Canberra and Delegate in 1927 (again with Richmond), where she rekindled her friendship with Edgar Wright, whom she married in June 1928.
This portrait, then, is not just one of Rix Nicholas’s most striking works of an Australian subject; it is also significant because it is one of the portraits that brought her acclaim in Paris and it is a portrait of one of her closest friends, who was instrumental in Rix Nicholas meeting her husband Edgar Wright.
Anne Gray, Head of Australian Art
in artonview, issue 82, Winter 2015