In 1899 artist Mary Cockburn Mercer ran away from her Melbourne home to Paris. She was 17 years old. After living what we might call the ‘bohemian artistic life’ Mercer went on to become a respected (and somewhat elusive) Australian painter.
This particular story is only one of many being told in Intrepid Women: Australian women artists in Paris 1900-1950. Showing at S. H. Ervin Gallery, the exhibition features paintings, prints and ceramics by 30 Australian women who travelled to Paris to study, paint and pursue their artistic lives. The show includes works by well known artists such as Grace Crowley, Anne Dangar, Ada May Plante and Margaret Preston, amongst others.
The women artists who visited Paris during this time were taking advantage of the progressive political and cultural changes being gained in the Western world.
“The first half of the 20th century was a time of great social change and women benefited from new found freedoms,” says Jane Watters, director of S.H. Ervin Gallery. “Paris was the undisputed capital of the art world and artists of all nationalities gravitated there to experiment in life and their artistic practices.”