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