Two girls

Born Hobart, Australia 1908, died Spain 1991


At a time when many Australian artists were focused on Australian imagery, Jean Bellette’s neo-classical paintings were distinctively different to the heroic and romantic landscapes of growing cities, untamed bushland and sun drenched coastlines. Bellette studied at the Hobart Technical School, the Sydney School of Art (under the tutelage of Julian Ashton), and at the Westminster Art School, London. In 1939 she married art critic Paul Haefliger and the couple returned to Sydney where she helped found the Blake Prize Committee and the Sydney Group which included the artists Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan, James Gleeson and Donald Friend.

Looking to figurative European art for inspiration, her subjects were drawn from classical history and mythology, and executed with a modernist simplification of form. Primarily concerned with the human psyche, her compositions often denied a narrative reading. This was particularly so in the intensely psychological works of the 1940s and 1950s, in which unknown events invisibly connect Bellette’s figures.

Bellette’s paintings have appeared in several major exhibitions including A Century of Australian Women Artists 1840s–1940s, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne (1993); and The Artists of Hill End, Art Gallery of New South Wales and touring (1995–97). Jean Bellette: retrospective was held by the Bathurst Regional Gallery in 2004 and toured in 2005. Her work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries and many other public collections.