Category Archives: Artists

The Lounge Cricketer


In Australia men’s and women’s cricket teams are starting up their international and inter-state match programme for our 2016-‘17 season, this cricket theme diorama takes us back to pre-TV days.

The Lounge Cricketer” was made by local artist, David Lever in 2014. He exhibited it in “History in Dioramas: David Lever” at Macquarie University in 2015.

The diorama is 11cms in width by 22cms in height and is expertly made from found pieces of such things as lino, copper, brass, bakelite and wood. Notice the miniature springs which are characteristic of some of the cartoons of Emile Mercier.

David has based his little sculpture or diorama on a cartoon drawn by Mercier (1901-1981) for the Sydney newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Mercier is much appreciated as a cartoonist who captured and commented on many aspects of daily life within the style of his times.


Reginald Walter Coulter (1904–1976) Part Two

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Amendments to Part One: Aided by the amazing local knowledge provided by Neil Davis and backed by research undertaken by David Lever we have now established that Reginald Coulter was actually a long time Berowra resident. Previously we believed that he had arrived in Berowra sometime in the 1950s, but we can now say that Coulter came to Berowra in 1943. This adjustment certainly changes the way we view his cartoons of that period, particularly post Second World War. Additionally, we have confirmed his date of death to be 24 January 1976, which had not been notated in the public record.

This extremely detailed and finely drawn illustration by Reginald Coulter was produced specifically as an invitation to staff to attend the Bulletin’s annual picnic day.  Using the idea of a Corroboree to promote the Bulletin’s picnic day from today’s perspective is ironic. After all, the Bulletin incited a radical nationalist viewpoint at the exclusion of Indigenous people and migrants; they were seen as not part of the ‘Australian story’.  It championed the idea that Australia was for the ‘White Man’, sexist, racist and xenophobic, the Bulletin also became affectionately known in certain circles as the ‘Bushman’s bible’, everything and anything Australian was acceptable and highly celebrated, but at the exclusion of any world relations, issues or politics. By 1925, at the time when Coulter had illustrated this invitation, the founding editor of the Bulletin, John Archibald had left the magazine; he had built a solid readership and supported the careers of great writers and poets such as AB Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin. On Archibald’s departure the magazine dipped not only in readership but also became a lot more conservative until Sir Frank Packer took control in 1961. With all that said, what is striking is the way the black-and-white artist Reginald Coulter has utilized the idea of a Corroboree to promote the annual picnic day creating a stylized depiction of dancers that appropriates Indigenous features with Western modes of dance – essentially a communion of people coming together in celebration.

Coulter’s wry commentary including a Who’s Who list on the invite is pertinent as the Bulletin supported a whole new generation of Australian writers and black-and-white artists like no other magazine of its period which rolled out as a who’s who list. In the foreground of the image, the Bulletin is represented as the strong and resilient bulldog against its more subdued competitors of a slinking slim cat and fluffy small dog Wildcat Monthly and the Australian Woman’s Mirror racing against time not to miss the departure of the boat is yet another clever twist of words and images that work in unison under the magical hand of the extraordinary black-and-white artist Reginald Coulter.

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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.


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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A Unique And Mysterious Vase

Unknown maker, late Victorian hand-painted glass vase

Unknown maker, late Victorian hand-painted glass vase

This unique glass vase was purchased by long-time Berowra resident Merle Davis at auction in 1984 from one of the first homes built in Berowra circa 1895, called The Laurels. The auction comprised an extensive list of antiques and collectables; it attracted a huge crowd on the day with many bidders and spectators vying for some spectacular items. The Laurels was a well-known guesthouse in its heyday, a welcome retreat for people mostly escaping the hubbub of city life on the weekends. Unfortunately the house no longer exists due to the recent redevelopments happening in Berowra.

An exceptional piece of hand-blown glass made during the turn of the last century, the vase is stylised in what is known as the ‘grotesque’. It was fortunate that my mother-in-law then gifted us the vase, which remains a great talking piece with our visitors due to its unusual design. One friend suggested that perhaps a collective of glassmakers around the1900s had made it. She could see it as an experimental piece, its production would have been done after hours by hands utilising the left over’s of the working day. I have found no other vase comparable to this one and certainly agree that this late Victorian vase in the spirit of its making has stood the test of time.

Can you add any information?


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A Remarkable Find: George Collingridge Paintings

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Recently I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to purchase three paintings by former resident of Berowra Creek, George Collingridge.

I noticed the paintings in an online catalogue for a local art auction. The watercolours were framed as a triptych. It was obvious that the value of the paintings was not fully appreciated, as the reserve price was $100 to $150. Although I must say that it is difficult to know their true value as so few come onto the market. However, to me, possessing an interest in local history, they are rare and valuable.

I nervously attended the auction, intent on being the successful bidder. To add to the tension I noticed others in the room singling out the Collingridge paintings and carefully examining them. Another bidder ( on-line) obviously had the same desire of acquisition and bid up to $750 in nerve wracking increments of $50. The paintings were mine at $800.

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I have had an interest in art as well as local Berowra history for over 40 years. During that time I have never seen a Collingridge for sale. Although I have since found that a small number, maybe 8 or 9 have been offered for sale at high prices during that period.

From the style of the works and the signatures on each work I believe that they were painted circa 1885/1886. At that time the artist was living either at Collingridge Point, Berowra Creek or at a later place of residence in a home he built in what is now in the grounds of Hornsby Hospital.

Collingridge settled on Berowra Creek during the early 1880’s and lived there for five years. Both of these homes still exist.

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I am not aware of the locations he has depicted in any of the three paintings. As he travelled extensively around Sydney, the Central Coast, the south coast and the Blue Mountains, they so far present a mystery yet to be solved. I see Singletons Mill and Dusthole Bay as possible contenders.

Enquiries with the auctioneers revealed that the woman who sold them, bought the works at a garage sale at a small cottage in Birchgrove about twenty years ago. From memory she thought that the owner may have been related to the artist or had been a neighbour or friend. It seem there was a connection with the artist.

On examination of the back of the paintings I found the artists instructions to the framer indicating the order in which he wanted the works to be displayed.

There is a considerable documentation on George Collingridge and his many achievements which I won’t attempt to summarise here. However I was curious as to what his personality might have been like. It is easy to be misled be the few formal portraits.

In the records of the Mitchell Library I was pleased to find two newspaper interviews conducted by reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald on the occasion of Collingridges 72nd birthday and his 80th birthday.

Both reporters described him as welcoming, enthusiastic and full of life. He was only too willing to stop what he was working on and talk extensively about his life and his plans for a further trip around the world in his eighties. One of the reporters stated that his studio and work area were just the opposite of what one might imagine that an artists studio might look like. Collingridges work area was immaculate and well ordered.

David Lever

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Berowra Hall 1914 – 1929 Part 2

Last week, David Lever shared two of his beautiful paintings of Berowra Hall with our blog followers and, as promised, this week he returns to more closely examine the paintings and the events which they represent.


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The annual plain and fancy dress ball was held on Friday 2nd October 1914. The Ball was reported to be highly successful and in fact more so than those held in previous years. That raises a question as to where Balls were held in Berowra prior to the construction of the Hall.

Decorations for the Hall, supper room and supper tables were along patriotic lines of red white and blue. Many beautiful and striking costumes were worn. The characters I have depicted in my painting were well described in the newspaper report enabling me to capture them in a manner in which they might have appeared.

Some of the costumes represented were; Britannia, Daughter of the Regiment, France, Golden Queen, Pierette, All British, Lady Teazle, John Bull, The Admiral, Sir Peter Teazle, Uncle Sam, and Pierotte. Some of those now unfamiliar characters were at the time well known stars of plays and music halls

The report on the Ball named the wearers of the costumes as well as providing detailed descriptions of the gowns worn by ladies who chose not to wear fancy dress costumes. Excellent music was provided by Mrs Hewitt and Mrs Long.


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The engagement of Miss Maggie Chrystal, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs . George Chrystal of “Ormiston” Goodwyn Rd. Berowra, to driver Harry Toms, A.I.F., second son of Mr and Mrs Charles Toms of Thornleigh was announced on 31st May 1919.

On 23rd October,1920, their military style wedding took place at St Marks Church of England, Berowra. The ceremony was conducted by The Reverand A.L. Wade of Hornsby, the service being choral.

Girlfriends of the bride decorated the church with arum lilies and marguerites. The church was filled to capacity. The bride was dressed in white charmeuse, elaborately hand embroidered , and wore a handsome bridal veil surrounded by orange blossom. The bride and bridesmaid carried bouquets of pink and white carnations tied with the grooms military colours of red and blue and were a gift of the bridegroom. The groom and best man wore their military uniforms.

Members of the tennis club provided a guard of honour as the couple left the church with raised tennis racquets. They were then driven the short distance to Berowra Hall.

A wedding breakfast was provided at the Hall for 80 guests. The event was celebrated with musical and singing entertainment as well as dancing. The couple received many wedding presents. Mr and Mrs Toms left for their honeymoon at Lawson. The bride was dressed in a grey outfit with hat to match.


The land upon which the Hall had been built remained vacant until the early 1950’s when the current house was built by local builder George Huett. Prior to that the charcoal covered land had been a popular play ground for local children.

In 1936 Berowra was provided with a new hall ( The Tavern) which was built on the land now occupied by the Berowra Chinese Restaurant on the Pacific Highway. But that’s another story ……

David Lever

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Berowra Hall: 1914 – 1929

This week Berowra Living History reflects on a building which was once central to the community. The Berowra Hall would this year be celebrating its 100th anniversary, were it still standing. David Lever, who has recreated the lost hall in two of his beautiful paintings tells a little of the story of the hall. 
BEROWRA HALL 1914 to 1929.
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It is difficult to imagine that during the years 1914 to 1929 a thriving centre of social and cultural activity existed on the site of what is now 27 Berowra Waters Road. This was the site of the first Berowra Hall.
The hall was completely destroyed by fire at about 10 am on Saturday , Christmas Eve 1929. The building, constructed of a timber frame, weather boards and a highly waxed floor burnt very quickly and was impossible to save.
The last activity held in the hall the night before was a card game played by local residents.
The construction of the hall was financed by Berowra residents who purchased shares for ten pounds each. Share certificates were issued and Hall events were managed by a Board of Directors. The managers were Charlie Woof, George Huett and Jack Foster.
A minor matter of interest is the paving of a footpath outside the hall. The Berowra Progress Association argued that the extensive drop from the path to the gutter presented a danger to the Councils President and other Councillors when visiting the hall. The resulting small section of footpath resulted in the first section and for many years the only section of paving in Berowra.
To date only two photos of the hall have emerged and both show the building in an advanced stage of destruction by the fire.
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Curious to know what the building might have looked like, I was luckily able to obtain enough information from those two photos to paint two images. I believe these two paintings represent the building with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Berowra Hall was regularly used during its lifetime. It hosted a wide range of activities and they included: an annual dancing season commencing in March, fetes, roller skating  annual balls, wedding breakfasts, silent movies and farewells to departing soldiers as well as returning soldiers during World War 1.
I chose two of those many events to represent in the paintings. Information about both events came from The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate which was based in Parramatta.
Come back next week to find out more about these events and the paintings which recreate them!
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Christmas Bush Collecting In The 1800s

The 2 illustrations presented here are the work of Arthur Collingridge.He was a Painter and Illustrator (1879-1901) of Australian Scenes. Arthur was a founding member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, along with brother George Collingridge.

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‘Christmas Bushes’, the first image appeared in The Sydney Mail (NSW1871-1912) December 23,1882. Accompanied by a Francis Myer’s poem  Christmas Bushes -A Reverie . . . here is a brief extract:

The dear old Christmas bushes
With rose tips for the time,
When the Christmas bells are ringing
In the summer’s golden prime.
The long blue mist-wreathed vistas
In the evening’s dying gleam,
And the Christmas bushes trailing
Along the shining stream…

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‘Christmas Bush’, the second image appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News Christmas Issue on December 25,1886.

Clearly Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) has always been very popular and ‘is at this season of the year in glorious blossom’.


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The Springs – Margaret Preston’s Berowra Home

Harold Cazneaux, Distant view of Margaret Preston's house at Berowra, 1936

Harold Cazneaux, Distant view of Margaret Preston’s house at Berowra, 1936

William and Margaret Preston moved to Berowra in 1932, and it is believed that the artist was recovering from surgery performed in 1929 as a result of breast cancer. The anticipation of the retreat into the bush coupled with the first ownership of property by the Preston’s would have provided Margaret with a great sense of comfort during that difficult period.

Arthur Rickard throughout the previous decade had been promoting the health benefits of Berowra in the Sydney Morning Herald. Many people like the Preston’s became aware of seeking an exodus from city life as beneficial to health and well being, in Preston’s case a time for reflection and contemplation.

We witness a striking development in the architectural style of Preston’s house as compared with that of the Federation style of such homes as ‘Sunbeam’. Preston’s house was extremely modern, based on the California Bungalow with a low-pitched roof, it’s architectural structure was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. The Preston’s made additions to the existing structure – it is believed that Margaret used the concept based on “design for living” principles when the additions and refurbishments were undertaken. Effectively, Preston created flow between the outdoor and indoor living spaces as she was known to often work on the verandah which overlooked the gardens and bush land area. Life and art merging within the everyday – one of the many inspirations of Berowra.


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Dolls In The Tavern

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If you look closely at David Lever’s painting of what was the old Tavern on the Pacific Highway, Berowra, you may be able to see the reason for our blog title!

While the Tavern of yesteryear was the hub of many activities like dances and school concerts it apparently also attracted attention for another reason.

Long time Berowra resident, Pam Gartung has fond memories of Mollie Dwyer and her great skills at knitting and sewing. Mollie features in the following extract from Worth Reporting on p.38 of The Australian Women’s Weekly of 26th November, 1949. At the time this popular magazine cost sixpence!

Knits Dolls’ Woollies on Hatpins

MOLLIE DWYER, of Berowra, N.S.W. has turned her childhood hobby of dressing dolls into a business. She makes baby clothes and exquisite dolls’ frocks, which are shown in a window of the Berowra Tavern where tourist buses stop each day. Hungry tourists have even been known to miss afternoon tea through spending too long gazing at Miss Dwyer’s handicraft.

Mollie Dwyer believes in making dolls’ clothes that are pretty but which can be taken off and washed by the young owner. One of the most beautiful dolls we saw wore vest, pants, petticoat, dress, shoes and socks and bonnet. For the doll’s one-and-a-half-inch feet, Mollie Dwyer had made quilted satin shoes, inventing the pattern and sewing away until midnight

Dresses are of the finest organdie or marquisette, appliqucd with hand-made medallions or sometimes with lace. Frocks and underclothes unfasten and can he laid out for ironing.

But not all the dolls wear summer dresses. Many are dressed in finely knitted wool. “I do the knitting on hatpins,” said talented Molly Dwyer.

This article is accessible through TROVE.


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