Jean Isherwood Collection




Jean Isherwood’s collection of 32 watercolour paintings were inspired by Dorothea Mackellar’s seminal poem My Country.

JEAN ISHERWOOD (1911 – 2006)

Jean Isherwood was born in Marrickville, Sydney in 1911. At age fourteen she won a scholarship to the National Art School at East Sydney Technical College (now an Institute of Technical and Further Education).

In the dramatic architectural surroundings which had previously comprised Darlinghurst Gaol, Isherwood learned an appreciation of linear perspective and accurate draughtsmanship which she later applied with great skill to her rural landscapes.

In 1929 she commenced work as a fashion artist with an advertising agency, continuing her studies for a further five years at the National Art School and Royal Art Society as an evening student. She later worked as a freelance artist and illustrator.

Isherwood’s first exhibited work with the Australian Watercolour Institute in 1934 was a small painting of a building site. From that time she became a frequent exhibitor in major art exhibitions. She was a student of Antonio Dattilo Rubbo.

She became part of Sydney Bohemian art scene, and met John Dabron whom she married in 1940. They moved to Springwood in the Blue Mountains and had two children, Josephine and Jacqueline. They divorced in 1948.

After the divorce, she returned to fashion drawing and illustration to support herself, pursuing her art interests, as she had before, on the weekend. She took up full-time painting in 1952.

From 1961 to 1974, Isherwood taught at the National Art School. This was a period of conflicting views in the teaching of art in Sydney, a time when a disciplinary approach to the skills of perspective, anatomy and design was considered by many of both the teachers and students alike as passé and unnecessary to the creation of works of art, the stylistic vogue being Abstract Expressionism.

Jean Isherwood was one of the several teachers who determinedly maintained the opposite position. An exacting teacher, she stalked her perspective drawing students with a kneadable putty eraser in hand, challenging their skills with arrangements of battered metal rubbish bins, piles of broken chairs and, on rainy days, a dripping sixteen-rib umbrella.

It was said of Miss Isherwood that no student escaped her class without being able to draw parallel lines and precise ellipses, freehand.

In 1959 Isherwood travelled around New South Wales by car. From that time onwards, she became primarily a landscape painter, and, through her attachment to the countryside, a major exhibitor in the art competitions held in conjunction with the shows run by the local Agricultural Societies and culminating each year in the Sydney Royal Easter Show with its exhibition attracting hundreds of entrants.

From 1950 until her death Isherwood won more than 100 first prizes in various art competitions.

SOURCE: Jean_Isherwood