This record needs moderation

painter, illustrator and writer, was born in Orpington, Kent, on 5 July 1904, daughter of Guilford Lewis, solicitor. She was educated at Bedales, Hampshire, and trained at the Slade School, London, where she held a scholarship and, while still in England, she exhibited at the New English Art Club. Lewis spent her most exciting period as a young artist in Australia, coming to work in Sydney in 1927 at the age of twenty-three. She immediately became closely involved with Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School, teaching there three days a week until 1929. Her modern art training in London reflected in the linear and design quality of her work influenced the local art scene, both through her teaching and as a regular exhibitor in leading shows. She took part in the Second Exhibition of Modern Art at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1927 – a Contemporary Group show – and exhibited portraits and landscapes with the NSW Society of Artists in 1927-29 and two portraits in the Archibald Prize for1928.

John Young, director of the Macquarie Galleries, gave Lewis a solo show in May 1928 and encouraged her to paint at the Austinmer Cottage where her close friend Adelaide Perry worked (as did Roland Wakelin). In 1929 Young suggested that Lewis travel to the Pacific Islands to fulfil her desire 'to paint brown people’ and arranged four sponsors, each to give £25 to fund the trip. During her six-month sojourn in American Samoa Lewis worked prolifically, depicting the people – whom she greatly admired – their life and customs. She recorded her happy and productive time there in an illustrated book, They Call Them Savages (London, 1938). Lewis’s drawings and oils of Samoan natives, exhibited in a solo show at the Macquarie Galleries in October 1929, received laudatory reviews and her work came to represent the spirit of modern art in Sydney. Her Samoan paintings and Sydney portraits were reproduced in Art in Australia in 1928-30.

Lewis left Sydney in December 1929 for a painting trip to Assam then returned to London in 1930. She later travelled to Ceylon. In 1931 she held a successful joint show with Roy de Maistre in Paris. She married an English sculptor, Denis Dunlop, some years after returning to London and, after the birth of a child in 1942, abandoned her art career due to ill health. She died in London in 1956.

Lewis’s work has largely disappeared. An excellent, undated oil on board cubist street scene was sold by Sotheby’s at Sydney on 16 August 1999 (cat. 221) for $5175.00. Her most notorious painting, Hot Night, exhibited in 1927 with the Society of Artists, which Home described as 'the sensation of the exhibition’, is known only from a black-and-white photograph. There are also paintings in the UK: Bexhill Beach (in Bromley Gallery), St Dominic’s Priory, portrait of the artist’s daughter,and a drawing of Sinanene in private collections.

Strecker, Jacqui
Date written:
Last updated: