Purple still life

Born Sydney, Australia 1916, died Sydney, 1997


Freda Robertshaw trained at the East Sydney Technical College until 1937, considered at that time to be the finest art school in New South Wales. She was apprenticed to Charles Meere, a commercial artist who incorporated bold modernist elements into his designs, and whose studio shared the same premises as Max Dupain and the publishers of Art in Australia and Home magazine, which published many modern artists and designers.

Robertshaw’s subjects included moody landscapes, but it was her interest in modernist ideas, and the surrounds of her working life, which exposed her to new artistic approaches. Standing nude (1938) is thought to be the first nude self portrait by an Australian female artist, and depicted her as a strong, confident and thoroughly modern woman, rejecting classical notions of beauty and perfection.

She exhibited regularly at the New South Wales Society of Artists, Royal Art Society, and Australian Watercolour Institute, Sydney. Robertshaw’s work has been included in several major exhibitions, including A Century of Australian Women Artists 1840s–1940s, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne (1993); Modern Australian Women: Paintings and Prints 1925–1945, Art Gallery of South Australia and touring (2000–01); and Heaven on Earth, Visions of Arcadia, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre (2005).

Her work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.