painter, decorator, embroiderer and art patron, was the daughter of H.W. Struben of South Africa. In 1903 she married Dudley de Chair, a career naval officer who was promoted admiral in 1920, knighted then appointed Governor of NSW (1924-30). In Sydney Lady de Chair patronised art, both officially and privately, and by both traditional and modern artists. Her patronage of modern art puts her among its earliest supporters in Australia. Her son, Somerset de Chair, believes that her patronage was due to a real appreciation of modern art not simply a desire to be fair to all Sydney artists: 'My mother obviously had a very keen eye for modern art’. Roy de Maistre wrote of her desire to open a 1926 exhibition of his work at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney:

Lady de Chair has seen all my works and is very intelligent on the subject though not widely experienced. She seems anxious to associate herself with modern art and mine in particular.

She herself revealed an enthusiasm for some modernist trends in art but a lack of understanding of more radical avant gardism:

Let me say again the “modern” style in art is well worth understanding. Not the extraordinary stuff one sometimes sees in French and American magazines (for I should be sorry to think we might ever change our taste so much as to appreciate that) but the sturdy, intelligent style which is here [in de Maistre’s work] exemplified.

Lady de Chair expressed her support not only in opening exhibitions but also in buying works; she owned paintings by Margaret Preston , Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre . However, Somerset de Chair notes that his mother also patronised traditional artists, being as friendly with George Lambert as with Roy de Maistre. She invited a very wide cross-section of artists to dine at Government House, B.E. Minns being the one most often attending.

Lady de Chair also attracted attention because of her interior decorating at Government House, particularly her installion of Chinese furniture and lamps. Among the pieces she brought to Australia were 'three vases of uncommon beauty, the gifts of the brother of the Emperor of Japan, a famous Japanese admiral’. Letters in the Mitchell Library also record occasions when she bought Wedgwood china and antique ceramics for her own and others’ collections. Interviewed when about to leave Sydney (when she was intending to visit Japan), a B.P. Magazine reporter noted:

The beauty of our Australian woods makes special appeal … and so charmed is she with the silky oak that she has arranged with Messrs. Beale and Co., of Sydney, to prepare for her and His Excellency the Governor a set of panels to take to England, and in her home there she intends to have a room for Sir Dudley panelled with this wood. “There is a dignity and beauty about a wood-panelled room that is unlike anything else,” declares her ladyship, “and there are no more beautiful woods in the world than the Australian, more especially the silkwood and cedar.”

On a few occasions Lady de Chair also ventured into art making. With her daughter Elaine she participated in some of the activities of the Turramurra Wall Painters’ Group organised by Ethel Anderson , wife of her husband’s secretary, and is recorded as painting an 'interesting panel’ in the group’s first project, decorating the Andersons’ garden shed. Lady de Chair wrote that her happiest home had been in Sydney, her only regret being that she was too busy to see enough of her 'very intelligent friends and acquaintances’.

Johnson, Heather Note: Heritage biography.
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