Year

1993

Degree Name

Master of Creative Arts (Hons.)

Department

School of Creative Arts

Abstract

Margaret Thomas (c 1840-1929) practised painting and sculpture in a professional capacity in both Australia and England. She was the first woman in Australia to practise sculpture professionally and has been recorded as such in the annals of Australian art history. Her published writings provide insight into the subjective experience of a woman artist at a point in history when women were beginning to emerge into the professional practice of art. Her writings span a number of literary genres, from poetry, biography and short stories to travel and art historical writing. This thesis uses her published writings, together with a brief outline of her career, as a case study of the emergence of women into the professional practice of art. It focuses on the development of her artistic identity. The study reveals that the woman artist's shift from an amateur to a professional status was not accomplished in a single decisive step. It suggests that the woman artist did not immediately abandon her historical link with her role as an accomplished amateur but that while tentatively placing one foot in the professional sphere she wove her traditional role meaningfully together with her new role. The thesis argues that the woman artist of the late nineteenth century used the framework of the amateur tradition to create a support matrix of identity from which to venture into the unknown of art as profession.

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