Painter and printmaker in Tasmania. Second daughter of Morton Allport, a Hobart solicitor and well-known amateur photographer. On 12 February 1894, the Mercury stated that Miss Allport had become 'the first Tasmanian to gain the distinction of having works hung in the Royal Academy' - her work was hung there in 1893, 1894 and 1906.
painter and printmaker, was born on 18 July 1860 in Tasmania, second daughter of Morton Allport , a Hobart solicitor and well-known amateur photographer, and Elizabeth, née Ritchie. Her grandmother Mary Morton Allport gave Lily her first art lessons. No comprehensive biography of Lily or any other Allport artist has been published, but she lived in England and travelled in Europe in 1888-1922 and 1927-31, at other times residing in Hobart until her death on 29 April 1949. Known as 'Lily’ within the family, she signed most of her work 'C.L. Allport’.
In 1888, the year Lily embarked for England with her mother and sister Mary, her brother Cecil wrote to her other brother, Gordon, with anything but wholehearted support for her artistic ambitions. Since her mother was unable to assist Lily’s aim to be employed 'as she thinks fit, and to be devoted to some talent’, Cecil asked Gordon to consider providing some financial help even though, in Cecil’s opinion, there was not 'the slightest probability…she would become sufficiently accomplished’ for this to 'bear good fruit’. Nevertheless, financial help was given that enabled her to prove Cecil wrong. She studied with Herbert Voss in London, then in Paris and Rome and in a relatively short time was successfully exhibiting, selling, teaching and publishing her art. Her early endeavours are described in a diary begun in Normandy in 1890. The continuing relationship of this determined artist – who never married – with her supportive family is exemplified by Cecil’s concern for her safety and his sending 'a draft in her favour’ when she obstinately continued to paint mosques and markets in Constantinople on the eve of World War I.
On 12 February 1894, the Mercury stated that Miss Allport had become 'the first Tasmanian to gain the distinction of having works hung in the Royal Academy’. (Her work was hung there in 1893, 1894 and 1906.) The Hobart Mercury of 16 May 1894 commented: 'Miss Allport is a native of Tasmania, but has been for some years a resident of London, where she has been studying under some of the leading artists in Great Britain. Her work is chiefly street scenes, and views of old churches have been very highly spoken of.’ When the Tasmanian National Gallery requested a painting she donated Study in Blue and Green , which had been 'hung on the Imperial walls last May’, noted the Mercury (12 February 1895) when it arrived: 'Miss Allport went to England some nine years ago, to pursue her studies in art, and has been very successful, some of her work having been highly referred to’.
Allport also exhibited at the British Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. In London, she showed oil and watercolour paintings, lithographs, colour linocuts and woodcuts at the Goupil Gallery, the London Salon, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Ridley Art Club. She exhibited the watercolour fan painting, Souvenir of Isadora Duncan’s Troupe of Children 1908, at the Goupil Gallery and at the Salon. In January-February 1914 her work, including the fan painting A Spring Song (c.1913, watercolour, Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts [ALMFA]), was included in a group exhibition of fan paintings at London’s Ryder Gallery. Allport’s standing as an artist in this decorative art form is confirmed by the fact that her fans were shown alongside examples by Charles Conder, 'the natural leader’ of this 'revival of a very delicate art’, according to the Westminster Gazette . Lily’s fans were praised by reviewers too, and A Spring Song was reproduced in the 'Ladies’ Supplement’ of the Illustrated London News .
Her subjects were often theatrical or ballet scenes. They include A Souvenir of the Russian Dancers Anna Pavlova and Michael Mordkin, at the Palace Theatre, London, 1910 and Les Sylphides (1913), as well as Pinkie and the Fairies , a fan painting believed to have been shown at Goupil in 1909 after the pantomime Pinkie and the Fairies had played at London’s Her Majesty’s Theatre from December 1908 to February 1909. Allport’s fans and prints form a great contrast to Thea Proctor’s, despite both artists working in the same media, often choosing similar subjects and showing at the same London galleries (Allport’s were slightly earlier). In her fan paintings, as in the various other art forms she explored, Allport built upon the academic teaching and practice of her English teachers, Hubert Voss, S.G. Boxsine and Charles Wellington Furse.
Other 'good fruit’ Lily was to bear included being an instructor at the London School of Photo Engraving and Lithography for almost twenty years. She was an exhibiting member of the British Society of Graver-Printers and her watercolour series, A Year in Tasmania , was exhibited at London’s Gieves Art Gallery in 1927 and favourably reviewed in the Sydney Bulletin later that year.
After returning to Hobart she ran her own studio and at the age of sixty-five set up a printing press, the Bolt Press, with Elizabeth M. Hood, inserting a notice in the local newspaper that she was 'unable to see friends and visitors until further notice’ due to a studio move and the demands of work. She also continued to exhibit her paintings and for three years (1933-35) opened her studio at 53 Collins Street to the public on Friday afternoons. In 1935 she held an exhibition there of her 'watercolours, portrait sketches, woodcuts and colour prints’. She was a Council Member of the Art Society of Tasmania in 1937-41.
Allport’s linocuts, for which she was probably best known in her lifetime, contrast with the more delicate quality of her lithographs and her fan paintings on silk. Their simple graphic flatness is also very different to the machine-age aesthetic present in the linocut work of an artist like Dorrit Black, another Australian working in England between the wars (but under Claude Flight, the English 'champion of lino cut’).
The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, founded on the family collection, has by far the largest holdings of Allport’s work. Some 400 items, including sketchbook works and multiple copies of her prints, were accessioned from the Allport family home, Cedar Court, Hobart, after her death. (In ALMFA exhibition Images of Childhood , 1993 were: HA72 Richea dracophylla 21 September 1887, w/c on paper; HA74 Nerium odorum n.d. w/c; HA67 Eucalyptus from WA 7 May 1891 w/c.) Included are a substantial number of her fan designs, although a few have appeared on the art market in recent years. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was offered by Deutscher Fine Art in 1982 and another was auctioned at Sotheby’s (Sydney) in 1993. The National Gallery of Australia also has a substantial collection of prints, e.g. The Shrimpers 1908, colour lithograph.