Near Yarck, Victoria

Born Melbourne, Australia 1893, arrived United States 1927, died Massachusetts 1962


Mary Cecil Allen was an artist and art educator who became an important advocate for modern art in Australia. The daughter of a Melbourne University professor, Allen grew up on the University campus and was highly educated. She studied at the National Gallery School, Melbourne (1910–16), and briefly at the Slade School of Art in London (1912–13). Following her studies she became a successful portrait and landscape painter and art lecturer.

In 1922 Allen was attracted to Max Meldrum’s theories on tonal realism and produced many works in this style. Concurrently, her reputation for insightful interpretation of artworks was growing and in 1926 she left Australia by invitation to work in Europe and New York. Following her permanent relocation to the United States, in 1931 Allen organised the first exhibition of Australian artists in America which toured and attracted strong interest.

Returning to visit Australia late in 1959, Allen spent time exploring parts of rural and central Australia and also held what would be her final exhibition in Melbourne in 1960. Near Yarck, Victoria (1960), is titled after a small town north-east of Melbourne. The paint application is bold and intuitive, and encapsulates the spontaneity and freedom of her modernist approach.

Allen’s publications include The Mirror of the Passing World, New York, 1928 and Painters of the Modern Mind, New York, 1929. Her work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and Bendigo Art Gallery.