NAS Retake: Freda Robertshaw
The model in this painting is believed to be Rita Lee, a popular artists’ model who worked at the National Art School in the 1930s and 40s. Lee was also a model for Norman Lindsay, Max Dupain, Rah Fizelle and Ralph Balson, and later married NAS photography teacher George Young, and so had a long association with the art school.
The student who painted her was Freda Robertshaw (1916-1997), who came to study at the East Sydney Technical College at the age of 16 in 1932. She was taught by Rayner Hoff, Douglas Dundas, Charles Meere, Frank Medworth and Herbert Badham, and the focus of her study was drawing, painting and lettering. Robertshaw went on to complete her Diploma in Painting in 1937 and was a contemporary of other female students such as Roslyn Edkins, Barbara Tribe, Eileen McGrath, Jean Isherwood, Jean Halstrom, Jean Broome and Marjorie Fletcher.
Robertshaw was hugely influenced by Charles Meere’s neo-classical style. He trained her in figure painting and she later became his apprentice. Robertshaw continued to paint all her life and completed one of the first nude self-portraits by a female artist in Australia. Standing Nude, 1944 is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
There are 13 works by Freda Robertshaw in the NAS Collection and this painting Seated female nude, ¾ front view, (1937) has been recently restored.
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Image: Freda Robertshaw, Seated female nude, ¾ front view, c1937, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76 cm, National Art School Collection © the Estate of Freda Robertshaw