A Painting by Emanuel Phillips Fox Acquired by Sydney

Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915)
Nasturtiums, c.1912
Oil on Canvas - 91.5 x 71.5 cm
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photo : Art Gallery of NSW

13/12/11 - Acquisition - Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales - Purchased for 610,000 Australian dollars at an auction organized by Deutscher and Hackett on 31 August 2011 in Melbourne, a canvas by Emanuel Phillips Fox entitled Nasturtiums (1912) has now joined the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

An Australian artist, Fox traveled to Europe and was influenced by both his academic background as well as his discovery of Impressionism. He studied at the Académie Julian, Paris, in 1887 under Bouquereau and Robert-Fleury, then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts alongside Gérôme ; he also worked in the studio of the American painter Alexander Harrison before returning to Australia in 1892 where he founded the Melbourne Art School with his friend Tudor St. George Tuck and taught notably outdoor painting. In 1905, he married the artist Ethel Carrick (whose works can also be found in the museum) and they lived together in Paris until 1913, on the boulevard Arago near Montparnasse. During this long stay in France, Fox visited neighbouring European countries and also Northern Africa from where he brought back Orientalist scenes. Lastly, he was the first Australian to enter the Société nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1910.

This newly acquired painting reflects the period during which the artist illustrated the elegance of the Belle Epoque and the sunny pastimes of the bourgeoisie. The Art Gallery of N.S.W. in fact owns one of his masterpieces entitled The Ferry (1910-1911), a delightful souvenir of Trouville.
At the center of Nasturtiums, he represented his friend and favorite model, the artist Edith Anderson, who married Penleigh Boyd, a landscape painter and Fox’s neighbor in Paris. This canvas, which the artist gave to his friend, had remained in the family until now. Easily recognizable for her copper-red hair, Edith appears in other compositions such as The Muslin Dress or The Green Parasol (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), painted the same year.
In fact, in 1911 and 1912, Fox depicted a series of women in garden settings, studying the light, its reflections and its spotted effects in paintings which are neither portraits nor genre scenes ; interestingly enough, unlike the portraits from the 1890’s (the adorable Adelaide, the discreet Mary and the elegant Cousin), their titles are metonymic, that is evoking a material or a detail in a picture, not a person. Nasturtiums was conceived as a search for a decorative effect rather than an attempt to transcribe an intimate scene taken from real life. The work is very similar to The Green Parasol by its colors first of all, underscoring green shades, red touches and black spots ; by its composition as well, which presents the same feminine figure, seated outside, in an identical chair, with the image cut off at the knees. However, the Sydney painting is more tightly centered, there are fewer light contrasts and the lack of perspective gives us an impression of a flat space, invaded by motifs : the leaves on the trellis, the red touches provided by the flowers, the white dots on the dress, the weaving on the wicker chair, all corresponding to a very pleasing Japanese aesthetics which recalls Vuillard.
This painting by Emanuel Phillips Fox was acquired in memory of Margaret Olley, painter and generous patron to the museum, who passed away in July 2011 ; for lack of forget-me-nots, nasturtiums as a souvenir to her.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, jeudi 15 décembre 2011

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