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Social watercolourist who was active in Brisbane during the Second World War. Dorothy Helen Gordon was born in Kimberley, North Cape, South Africa; daughter of farmer John Gordon and Helen Phedora Jane James Gordon née Hicks. Gordon had one brother, Colin McLennan and one sister, Avery Yvonne. The family immigrated to Queensland three years after Dorothy’s birth. Little is known of Gordon’s life apart from the fact that she was employed as a school teacher and resided in the family home at Carberry St, Grange. (1)

Gordon received training in art through weekly classes at the Brisbane chapter of the Worker’s Employment Association. Walter Collings, former Head Teacher of Wilston State School taught art history and the principles of watercolour and drawing, and hosted outdoor excursions on Saturdays for students to perfect their technique in a plein air setting. (2) Gordon did not show her work at the Queensland Art Society’s group shows, and no records indicate that she participated in the Royal National Association or Queensland Watercolour Society exhibitions.

Gordon died on 15 August 1946, aged 40, as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage and chronic nephritis. She was cremated on 17 August at the Brisbane Crematorium on Mount Thompson. (3) She was survived by her sister and her brother. Stylistically, Gordon’s still life paintings echo the formal styles of leading painters of the period, especially Brisbane watercolourist Vida Lahey. Her loosely rendered landscape sketches reflect her tutelage in plein air painting. Works are signed “D Gordon”.

Gordon’s only solo exhibition was held posthumously from 15 October 1946 at Brisbane’s Moreton Galleries. Opened by M.S. Herring, Trustee of the Queensland National Art Gallery, the watercolour display featured 28 works, notably formal still life scenes and sketches of South-east Queensland locations, including several views of Kingaroy, the Brisbane River, and Kalinga Park. (4) The works were described as being “vested with considerable lyrical charm, and marked by a simplicity of design and colour”, especially a large still life, “Poppies”, which was “meritorious for its naturalness and artistic arrangement.” (5)

(1) Queensland Death Certificate 1946/B8052; Courier Mail, 15 October 1946, 4.
(2) W.E.A. Bulletin, Vol. 1 No. 3 May 1939, 3.
(3) Queensland Death Certificate 1946/B8052.
(4) Dorothy Gordon Memorial Exhibition Catalogue, Moreton Galleries
(5) Courier Mail, 15 October 1946, 4.


Timothy Roberts
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