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Thelma Greer, Still LifeTitle
Still Life

Location
In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia

Media
Painting

Medium
Oil

Credit
Winner Calleen Award 1977

Accession number
CAL1977

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

There is little biographical information on the winner of the first Calleen Prize, Thelma Greer. She is not mentioned in any of the standard references nor is there any record of work by her coming to auction in Australia. The Prize ($1000) was part of the Cowra Festival of the Lachlan Valley Art Exhibition and was held in the Coach House Motor Inn in Kendal Street, Cowra. The Prize was acquisitive and the winning work would become part of the Cowra Council Collection. The exhibition brochure lists 22 works in Section B (The Calleen prize (sic)). Of these 10 were from regional New South Wales (regional in this instance encompassing towns around Cowra including Bathurst, Canowindra, Cootamundra, Cowra, Mandurama, Orange, and Young). Greer exhibited 2 works – Still Life and Happy Days – both oils. It is interesting to note that apart from one work in tempera, all exhibited entries to the Prize were oils. This may reflect both an assumed hierarchy of media (with oil holding the most prestige) and a traditionalist approach to painting that (again) assumed an a priori pre-eminence of oil paintings over work in other media.

It would be fair to say that the judge, John Santry, could be classified as a traditionalist in his approach to his own practice and his choice of Greer’s Still Life reflects this. The work owes much to late Impressionism. I am thinking in particular of the intimate interiors and still life paintings of French artists, Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, paintings in which the motif was (often) subsumed patterns dominated by colour but always held together by a subtle infusion of underlying structure. Greer’s work also reveals her experience of Cubism as seen especially in her distortion of perspective and fracturing of picture planes to create a vital spatial configuration quietly unified by the overall patterning and the strong presence of the central motif of the vase of flowers.