Jane Price (1860 – 1948)

As an active campaigner of plein air painting practices and the woman responsible for instigating the role of theosophy in Australian art, the painter Jane Price became well-known not only for her distinct Naturalist landscapes, but also for the close associations she had with the prominent male and female figures of the Heidelberg School.

Born on February 18, 1860 in Cheddar, England, Price received her formal art training from classes attended at the South Kensington Art School before she travelled to Sydney, Australia in 1880. Settling in Melbourne two years after arriving in Australia, it was here that Price made close life-long friendships with such influential members in the Australian art world as; Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and his family, the Colquhoun family, and the women artists of the Heidelberg School, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern. Having made such associations Price often joined these artists at their painting camps in Heidelberg and Eaglemont where she adopted and developed the distinct painting styles of the Heidelberg School. During her time at the painting camps Price painted with pastels and oils to create impressionist style works that demonstrated the influences of Walter Withers and David Davies.

As the daughter of a Baptist Minister, with an early exposure to religion, Price sparked an interest in theosophy, that being the philosophy professing to achieve knowledge of God through, spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition, or special individual relations. It became a passion of hers which was to later characterize her works of art. Particularly interested in using her art to capture the effects of the different seasons on the Australian landscape and the atmospheric effects of moonlight and early morning sunlight, Price’s interest in light and theosophy is reflected in such works as, Moonrise, Sunrise and Sydney Harbour by Night. Also adopting the use of a high horizon line to create many of her landscapes, the artist’s works reflected a faithful connection to the artistic practices of the Naturalist movement.

Price’s avid interest in theosophy was heightened after Annie Besant’s Melbourne visit in 1908. Touring the cities of the Australian Commonwealth, Besant held many enlightening lectures on the subject of theosophy. Consequently, Jane Price became a founding member of the Melbourne Branch of the Theosophical Society and Besant Hall came to be used as the venue for many artists.

Having worked also as a governess in her time, Jane Price acted as governess to the children of Alexander and Beatrice Colquhoun in Hampton, 1903. Later that year, she moved in with the Colquhoun’s close friends, Annie and Frederick McCubbin, to be the governess to their children at their home on Mount Macedon. While she remained the governess to the McCubbin children for several years, Price continued with her painting during this time.

In an exhibition managed by Annie McCubbin in November 1905 in the McCubbin’s South Yarra home, Price exhibited in the Private Exhibition of Pictures. One of her works displayed was Spring Clouds, 1905. Including the works of fellow female artists, Jane Sutherland, Clara Southern and May Vale, the exhibition was well attended and resulted in a number of sales. Prior to this, Price regularly exhibited her works in Melbourne with the Victorian Artists’ Society.

After moving to Sydney in 1907, Jane Price became one of the foundation members of the Society of Women Painters in 1910. She painted a number of Sydney Harbour views, some of which were later purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria. Price returned to Melbourne during the time of the First World War. Settling in Diamond Creek, she used oil paints and continued to paint her own depictions of the local landscapes and its flora of waratahs and gum blossoms. Some of her images created during this time were later commercially reproduced as postcards.

Price moved back to Sydney in the 1920s, producing a number of artworks of the Heads and the activities of Sydney Harbour. In 1938, she moved to ‘Rosedale’ in St. Kilda, the home of her close friend, fellow artist and fellow theosophist, Ina Gregory.

Jane Price continued with her art, right up until her death at ‘Rosedale’ in 1948, at the age of eighty-eight. Her works have appeared in many exhibitions in Australia’s major galleries.

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