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Australian Art
Expatriates, Federation Landscapes & Symbolism gallery

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E. Phillips FOX

Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia 1865 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1915

  • Movements: Europe, England 1887-92
  • England, Europe 1901-1913

The green parasol c.1912 Paris, Île-de-France, Ville de Paris department, France
paintings, oil on canvas
Technique: oil on canvas
Primary Insc: signed l.r., oil "E. Phillips Fox", not dated
117.0 h x 89.5 w cm
framed (overall) 1331 h x 1056 w x 65 d mm
Purchased 1946
Accession No: NGA 46.13


  • E Phillips Fox delighted in capturing the differences in the tone of colours found in light and shade. In The green parasol he has done this during the full blaze of a summer’s day, expressing his fascination with the sunlight filtering through a green parasol onto a woman’s face, hand and pale green dress. The paint has been applied heavily, juxtaposing touches of pure colour to produce an effect of shimmering light. However, some areas of the light fawn canvas have been left unpainted to create a sense of light and air, and to provide a reflecting area between the colours.

    The model for the painting was Edith Anderson and the setting was Fox’s garden. Fox presented a genteel and leisurely way of life that was harshly disrupted a few years later with the onset of the First World War.

    An Edwardian expatriate artist, Fox studied in Melbourne and Paris, and achieved a reputation for his sensuous and stylish works celebrating light and colour. With Tudor St George Tucker he founded the Melbourne Art School in 1892, and some 10 years later returned to London where he married the English artist Ethel Carrick. They lived mostly in Paris and revisited Australia only three times.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • The green parasol, depicting friend and sometime student Edith Anderson, was painted in the idyllic surroundings of the Fox’s home at 65 Boulevard Arago, Paris. Painted in the afternoon sunlight, the work emanates the warmth and glow of a relaxing summer’s day in the garden. The painting reveals Fox’s ability to create dappled and diffused light across the scene and demonstrates his position as one of Australia’s Impressionists.

    The pure, vibrant and juxtaposing colour and raw, unpainted patches crossing the canvas create both movement and quiet within the painting. The stirring of leaves and petals is sensed in the mass of trees and flowers; Edith’s movement as she settles herself and her dog while holding her parasol in place brings a certain tension. But her face, seen in half-profile, is peaceful and untroubled. Edith looks fondly at her pet and is relaxed in the company of the painter. This is life in Edwardian Paris and an intimate moment revealing the friendship between sitter and artist.

    The green parasol is also an example of Fox’s desire to blur portrait and subject painting; to make a picture rather than paint a portrait.[1] Edith and the garden appear to become one. The green chiffon of Edith’s dress melts into the surroundings while the middle- and background collapse, drawing us towards her as the central focus. We enter her calming space. Yet the garden, its movement and light, remain vividly present.

    Edith Anderson (1880–1961) and her future husband, Penleigh Boyd, were close friends of the artist. Originally a painter from Brisbane, Edith studied in London and had been living in Paris for some time. Fox first asked her to model for The green parasol as well as a number of other paintings because he was attracted by her rich auburn hair and grey-green eyes—both fashionable at the time.[2]

    Life in Paris for E Phillips Fox allowed him to paint as he wished. After his marriage to Ethel Carrick he was no longer reliant on commissions to support his career, as had been the case in London. Success in Paris was confirmed by his membership of the Société Nationale de Beaux Arts (1910) and the International Society of Painters, Sculptors and Gravers (1912).

    The green parasol was the first portrait to be acquired for the national collection, purchased by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board in 1946.

    Georgia Connolly

    [1] R Zubans, E. Phillips Fox: his life and art, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1995, p 64.

    [2] M Eagle, The oil paintings of E Phillips Fox in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1997, p 63.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Anne Gray Australian portraits 1880–1960 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010