The Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work

The Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work was held at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne for five weeks in 1907. People could see arts and crafts including paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, pottery, needlework, leatherwork, woodwork, spinning and weaving.

One of the women carvers exhibiting was Tasmanian born Ellen Nora Payne and she went on to win three prizes and a medal for her wood carvings. She was very hard working and prolific although worked mostly for friends and family. Payne learnt some of her craft from Robert Prenzel. You can see Payne’s churchly work at St Andrew’s Church, Westbury in Tasmania. This image comes from Heritage, The National Women’s Art Book.

| Ellen Nora Payne hard at work in 1905 |

Maude Baillie from South Australia was also exhibiting. This Chiffonier design is decorative woodcarving at its best. Rope borders and floral motifs everywhere. Baillie mostly used a pocket knife and chisel. A family story says a state governor was so impressed by her work he gave her a set of woodcarving tools, but she soon moved back to her handy knife and chisel.

Beautiful Arts and Crafts.

| Maude Baillie, Chiffonier, 1904, carved blackwood |

Lady Northcote, wife of Australia’s third governor-general, was the organiser of the Women’s Work exhibition and because it is such a stunning photo I had to share it. She is wearing a dress by the famous dressmaker Charles Worth.

| Lady Northcote, 1908 )

Here’s to all the hard-working women I know.

Julia Ritson

5 responses to “The Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work”

  1. Do you have any pictures of artist Constance Lillian Jenkins, regards, Jan Hercus.

    1. Sorry Jan, no I don’t… Julia

  2. Hi Julia
    I am involved in putting on an exhibition of Ellen Nora Paynes work in the place of her birth, Westbury, Tasmania. I am trying to track down the photo you have used of her carving the pulpit in Westbury. I have looked for the publishers of the book you mentioned to no avail. Wonder if you have any further information

    Sean Manners

    1. Hi Sean. Thanks for the contact. I should have mentioned in the entry that it is a Joan Kerr book. I found it at the Stonnington Library in Malvern and it is an amazing book. I tried to buy it but was out of my price range. I’ve just searched Stonnington catalogue and it is not coming up. Meanwhile here is the link to the trusty trove entry. Hope this helps, regards Julia

  3. Hi Sean. The image is also used in Russell Atkinson’s 1975 self-published biography of Ellen Nora Payne, where the caption gives it as taken when she was working in her coach house studio in England. There is a copy of the book in the church at Westbury. And it turns up again in Grace Cochrane’s invaluable text, The Crafts Movement in Australia: A History (1992, p.17) where the photograph source is stated as St Andrews Church. Maybe the place to start. Deb Malor

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