Reginal Walter Coulter (1904 Christchurch, New Zealand – c.1972 Sydney, Australia) Part One

Coulter bower bird

R.W. Coulter, The Bower Bird, c. 1933, ink drawing, image sourced from the children’s book, The Bubble Galleon: A holiday pantomime by Ernest Wells illustrated by R.W. Coulter, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1934

One of Australia’s leading and most prolific illustrators, cartoonists once lived in Berowra. Born in New Zealand Reginald Walter Coulter known as Reg was a gifted cartoonist, illustrator, printmaker and writer and as a regular contributor to The Bulletin from the 1920s through to the 50s his works were highly regarded amongst this readership. He studied art at the Julian Ashton art school in Sydney which led to a job as an illustrator for the Woman’s Mirror and the magazine the Aussie.

His versatility in the medium produced an array of witty and at times sardonic cartoons and caricatures. His Aussie sense of humour mixed with socio-political commentary witnessed titles such as Belt into him comrades, 1931 ink on paper and It’s a ‘ard life, 1930, ink cartoon of a schoolboy. During the Second World War, he produced cartoons that depicted loss and a sense of yearning for home but touched with great wit and humor, which was an important ingredient for instilling morale both on the war and home fronts. Coulter continued to contribute to The Bulletin throughout the 1950s, highly recognised these works were subsequently published in Joan Kerr’s ground-breaking book, Artists and Cartoonists in Black and White, 1999. One of the cartoons titled This year the Mutual Admiration Art Society is going all-out for the Archibald Prize, 1958, shows two male artists identical in looks and dress – wearing berets, sandals and Grecian style tunics and another pair of men identical painting each other ‒ a send-up of the vanity behind the making of self-portraits by male artists and at the same time having a dig at the “in-crowd”. Perhaps he was also alluding to the gender inequality of the Archibald Prize at the time.

Reg and his wife Eve moved to Berowra in 1958. Reg built a unique stone cottage using flagstone sourced from the Berowra estate, stylistically akin to a fairy-tale type house. Here surrounded by magnificent views of the bush, Coulter’s illustrations further developed to encapsulate the Berowra bushland and its native wildlife. Reg Coulter’s cartoons are represented in the National Museum of Australia, National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales.

Rhonda

Note: If you have any Reg Coulter illustrations or cartoons in your collection at home we would be very interested to hear from you.

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3 thoughts on “Reginal Walter Coulter (1904 Christchurch, New Zealand – c.1972 Sydney, Australia) Part One

  1. Neil Davis says:

    Hi Rhonda.
    I have read your blog on Reg Coulter, with great interest.
    I knew of a couple by that name, who lived about half way down Berowra Creek road on the right hand side going down. There is a clearing there, where the council excavated fill, to help build the road. Back in the bush north from this point , is where Coulter`s stone house used to be,, and probably still is.
    When I was about 14 years of age, I used to hang around Jones boatshed, on the weekends. I would wake up at 2 a.m. and set off from Rickard road down the Creek road, right out Turner road, then walk to the end of Nalya road. All in complete darkness. There were no street lights those days, with only the moon to guide me.
    From that point the journey was very steep,: since then, a sealed laneway has been laid down” . The track then took me right past Coulters back gate and their dog would bark at me every bloody time . imagine that in pitch darkness and not another sound around.
    Just past this point I would pick up the top end of what was known as the short cut, which led to the water. Once there I would do some fishing, and wait for the men to turn up about 6 a.m. I loved the whole atmosphere, the water ,the hustle and bustle of the day trippers hirering rowing boats ,people fishing, swimming every where. after a while I started to put the ropes , water cans, and anchors, into the rowing skiffs. Nobody said anything to me so I just took that job over, pretty pushy eh. Through the day I would join all of my friends swimming and having fun
    Then in the late afternoon when the boats all came back, it all went on again. The anchors were put away, ropes hung up and water cans emptied,
    Then the men would pull the boats up onto the sloping ramp, pull the bungs, hose them out, and trolley them into the shed where they were then stacked two rows high.
    Paul Jones was a good bloke, he gave me 5 shillings each time I was there, and at odd times would let me take one of the motor boats out for a couple of hours,
    After Max came home from the war ,he took over from Paul, and he would only give me two and six . I think this took the shine off things . Usually a customer would give me a lift up to the top.
    The going price to hire a rowing skiff was 8 shillings per day, and a motor boat was 10 shillings.

    I never had the opportunity to meet the Coulters, but I sometimes saw, and heard, Mrs Coulter getting on and off Corrigan’s bus. The drivers would stop and let her on and off on the side of the road .From memory she was a shortish woman ,hair pulled back ,and very out spoken. I can remember her giving the bus driver an earful, now and again, telling him to tell Corrigan to sharpen up, as his buses were not on time. Stuff like that. she was known in the district for letting people know what she thought.

    When I was a pupil at the old Berowra School in about fourth class , i remember that we were given what I think, was called ,a Reader, or magazine.
    The readers would come along now and again. There was not much in these that made any impression on me. Except one article which at the time I really loved. It was I suppose a little short story.
    The story was, as far as I know ,written and illustrated by Reg Coulter, who, most of us knew ,lived in Berowra . Those days you knew every one. The story was The Meeting Place, or The Meeting Pool.
    It saddens me that the memory of most of the story has faded, but it was about a lovely clear fresh water pool in possibly a little Berowra gully. one could just imagine Reg Coulter getting great inspiration from the bush around him. The time is getting towards dusk, and there seems to be some movement around the pool, in the edge of the under growth. Gradually a few small skinks, a couple of water dragons,appear then along hopped a pair of wallaby`s. Soon after, a small tortoise or two. Later come red bellied black snakes,a couple of koala , and Mr goanna.
    There were birds of every size and colour.
    These creatures of the bush have all come to the meeting place ,to drink at the end of the day, and to communicate with one another .

    This story that I have tried to tell, could not be word for word. But while writing this ,in my minds eye I am ,in part, enjoying what I did way back then.

    Neil.

  2. Nathan Scott says:

    I knew Eve Coulter, Reg’s wife, when I was a child living in Berowra. Their house, which they built together from local stones, was delightful and I wonder if it is still there. I used to visit Eve in 1977 and 78, when I was 10 years old, and it was always an undiluted pleasure. I remember a drawing on the wall, probably by Reg, of pirate treasure. I think I have a photograph of it somewhere if anyone is interested. Eve was a true Aussie, the best of the best, and is remembered fondly.

  3. Peter Gilkes says:

    I remember Eve very well. I used to live as a neighbor for two years just after I left school, I would do cutting back in her garden and we’d catch up regularly for a salad and a glass of sparkling wine. She had long hair down to her waist and she had a spirit like cold steel if she was crossed. A lovely woman, always in my heart. Many conversations just sharing the silence and the afternoon light across the hills,

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