The age of the New Woman

Brisbane Museum’s latest art exhibition paints women in a very different light.

Inspired by Brisbane’s ground-breaking female artists, New Woman is a vibrant ode to the women who shaped the Queensland art scene over the past 100 years.

New Woman exhibition

The artwork is hung salon style – an ironic and appropriate touch as many women in art’s history were barred from exhibiting in salons. In contradiction of the traditional salon style is a backdrop of eye-catching coral pink that represents the unconventional spirit of the artists whose work hangs on the walls. 

The exhibition begins with work from Caroline Barker – well known for teaching Sommerville House’s budding female artists during the 1920s. Renowned artists Vida Lahey and Daphne Mayo, who were the original inspiration for the exhibition, have also been included by curator Miranda Hines.

Miranda Hines curator

New Woman exhibition curator Miranda Hines.

Within each era there is a different theme and the artwork becomes more politically and socially aware as well as experimentative as the artists blend genres and create new techniques.

There is an obvious branching out from the traditional portraiture and still life imagery most commonly found in earlier years. This is shown through works from influential artists such as Davida Allen, Emma Coulter and James Barth (who identifies as transgender), who explore what it means to be a woman and a female artist.

Davida Allen's Drawing 1

Davida Allen, Drawing #1; 1982.

As a commissioned work for the exhibition, contemporary artist Rachael Haynes has created a child-friendly, interactive piece exploring female empowerment and celebrating the history of women’s rights. As part of the work, she has collected famous rally cries and slogans from the suffragette and later equal rights movement and encourages exhibition guests to create their own.

Both the exhibition and Haynes’ collection can’t help but make viewers feel proud of the past generations of women who have paved the way.

Rachael Haynes' Threads of Resistance

Rachael Haynes, Threads of Resistance; 2019.

For those who want a deeper dive into Brisbane’s female art history there are workshops, talks and tours led by artists, academics and historians to give further background to the pieces.

Museum of Brisbane Artist-in-residence Piyali Ghosh and performer Naomi Blacklock will also be hosting sketching sessions, live drawing and performances throughout the length of the exhibition.

New Woman is free to enter and will run from 13 September – 15 March. Visit Museum of Brisbane for more information.

Main image: Caroline Barker, Untitled (Life class model); 1925