Still life with Zinnias

Born Sydney, Australia 1900, died Sydney 1975


Alison Rehfisch was a modernist still life painter whose practice flourished between the wars. Influenced variously by the works of Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall and Augustus John, her interest in design, colour and form is evident in the many still life, landscape and flower paintings she produced during her career.

Modernism in all its forms appealed to Rehfisch, whose upbringing had given her a liberal disposition. Her mother was an artist and suffragette, and her grandfather, a reformer, had called for equal rights for women in 1880. A free thinker, Rehfisch revelled in the bohemian lifestyle in Sydney during the 1920s and 1930s.

Rehfisch’s artistic training was attained at the Julian Ashton and Dattilo-Rubbo schools, with the latter developing her interest in colour. In Europe from 1933, Rehfisch studied under Ian McNab at the Grosvenor School, London and exhibited with the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Oil Painters Institution, London.

On her return to Sydney in 1939, she was an active member of the Contemporary Art Society and was heavily involved in the Contemporary Group, which provided momentum to the modernist movement in Sydney and nationally.

In 1946 she was included in the exhibition Australian Women Painters, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and posthumously in Modern Australian Women – Paintings and Prints 1925–1945, Art Gallery of South Australia (2001).

Her work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and the Newcastle Region Art Gallery.