Tag Archives: artist

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

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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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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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The Berowra History Paintings by artist David Lever

Cumberoona Motors by David Lever

Over the last five decades Berowra artist David Lever has embarked on a fascinating journey to know the social, cultural and built environment history of Berowra. In 1995, after retiring from the workforce David took up painting under the master tuition of one of Australia’s leading artist’s Garry Shead. David’s abilities as an artist soon became apparent and before too long he produced with great ardency a series of paintings based on the history of Berowra.  David has vividly captured the essence and atmosphere of Berowra that prompts within the viewer the urge to look much deeper within each painting. The works have a slight cinematic feel that places the viewer within the imaginative field of the painting convincing in its unfolding narrative.

The painting shown here of Cumberoona Motors is now the site of the BP Garage in Berowra. David has set the scene in the mid ‘60s when the garage was owned by the Corrigan family. Seen in the background of this painting is one of Corrigan’s buses, the local bus company which serviced the entire Berowra community.  There was a small flat attached to the back of the garage which was called the Wombat Flat. Various family members lived there.

David is recording history that draws upon the way a community has interacted with the environment and how those places and sites he so finely depicts becomes part of Berowra’s Living and evolving History.

David Lever’s Berowra series of paintings will be released on this blog over the forthcoming period, so don’t miss the next instalment.

If you would like to see more works by David Lever, please visit his website.

Rhonda

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