‘The seaside’ or possibly ‘The bathers’

Born Armidale, New South Wales, Australia 1879, died Sydney 1966


Althea Mary (Thea) Proctor studied at the Julian Ashton School, Sydney (1895), and attended the St John’s Wood School, London (1903) in the company of her close friend George Lambert.

In London (1903–12 and 1914–21) she exhibited with the Royal Society, the New English Art Club, the International Society, and the Senefelder Club. Her work also received exposure in Venice, Rome, Paris, Berlin and Ghent.

On returning to Melbourne in 1921, Proctor generated support for modernism and was an intrinsic figure in the development of the Sydney Contemporary Group, established in 1926.

The seaside (or possibly The bathers) (c.1923) is an example of her decorative work. This watercolour image epitomises her concern to synthesise line, colour and form. Proctor’s interest in design principles permeated all aspects of her life. She took pleasure in the art of flower arrangement, interior decoration and colour schemes, and was inspired by Japanese prints, French design and the Ballet Russe. In 1923, she produced the cover image for Sydney Ure Smith’s Home magazine.

A major exhibition of her work, The World of Thea Proctor, was held at the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. She was also included in The Edwardians: secrets and desires, National Gallery of Australia (2004); and The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788–1988, Art Gallery of South Australia and touring all state galleries (1988–89), and is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and most state and regional galleries.