Thea PROCTOR, The swing Enlarge 1 /1


Armidale, New South Wales, Australia 1879 – Potts Point, New South Wales, Australia 1966

  • England 1903-12, 1914-21

The swing 1926 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour and drawing in pen and ink Support: silk

Primary Insc: signed lower right in pen and black ink, 'Thea Proctor'. not dated.
Dimensions: image 25.2 h x 24.6 w cm sheet 32.8 h x 30.8 w cm sight 25.6 h x 25.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1973
Accession No: NGA 73.317
Image rights: © Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Purchased by the Acquisition Committee [Australian National Gallery], from Clune Galleries, Sydney, 1973.

Like the women in her images, Proctor followed two somewhat contradictory paths: that of advancing the cause of the modern woman and that of escape into an imaginary life. She was tall, stately, dignified and exquisitely groomed – a model of style and stylishness who lived her life as artistically as her art. She knew about the latest fashions, but preferred to design her own idiosyncratic clothes that expressed her individual style. Nonetheless, she promoted contemporary art and championed modern interior design, clothes and motor cars. She made a concerted effort to expand the aesthetic awareness of the Australian public, by promoting art as having an integral place in, and positive influence on, modern life.

In The swing, Proctor looked back to the past, depicting women and children wearing 19th-century clothes in a land where the sun shines, the grass is always green and it is possible to play all day – a universe free from the financial pressures or social inequalities of the real world. Proctor painted this decorative watercolour on silk, a medium she took up in response to Charles Conder’s exquisite drawings on silk. She also produced this image as a brightly coloured woodcut, one of a number that she made in Australia during the 1920s depicting people from past times engaged in leisure activities. They were escapist images, made for a society moving towards the Depression.

Anne Gray

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002