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painter, pastellist and illustrator, was born on 11 November 1881 at Hobart, daughter of Leonard Rodway, a dentist and botanist, and Louisa Susan, née Phillips. She studied art at the Hobart Technical College (1897, 1899-1901) under Ethel Nicholls and the sculptor Benjamin Sheppard; fellow pupils included Mildred Lovett and Eileen Crow. After exhibiting with the Art Society of Tasmania from 1898 and teaching art at the College in 1902, she travelled to London to study at the Royal Academy Schools under Sargent, Bacon, Leslie, Storey and other visiting masters, for which she won a four-year scholarship. She gained a credit in the Academy examinations with work in which Bertram Stevens saw 'breadth of treatment, fecundity of imagination and persistent earnestness’.

After returning to Australia in 1906, Rodway set up a studio in Sydney and continued to study under Sydney Long at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School. Her dramatic depictions of draped figures entered with several other works in the 1907 First Exhibition of Women’s Work at Melbourne were referred to as 'titanic’ by D.H. Souter. In the first issue of Art in Australia (1916) her portraits were described as having 'considerable power … certainty and grace’. As well as oil studies, she drew black-and-white illustrations for journals such as the Lone Hand , e.g. illustration to Arthur H. Adams’s poem 'Loneliness’ in June 1907 (p.177), a very odd drawing titled The Sisters showing a naked (dead?) woman in a cave accompanied by a skeleton (September 1907, 494) and illustrations to Furnley Maurice’s poem 'Exile’ in May 1907, 105. 'The Australian Girl as seen by Florence Rodway’, one of a series, was published on 1 January 1910, 282(?). Sleep , a pastel of a sleeping girl awarded an Honorable Mention at the 1909 Society of Artists’ exhibition, was reproduced in the magazine on 1 April 1910, accompanying a review of the show which stated:

Miss Rodway has come with pastels into her kingdom, to which her familiar charcoal studies seem to-day but a highway. Unlike her charcoals, she does not over-work her pastels; and the several children and fair girls that she shows are handled with a most refreshing directness.

Rodway was an active member of the Society of Artists from 1908 to 1930 and a committee member in 1912. She was also a foundation committee member of the Society of Women Painters in 1910 and a member of the exhibition committee in 1910-12. By then she was receiving regular portrait commissions, especially for children and mostly in pastel or pencil. Three of her pastels, Toffee (a little girl), a portrait, and The Interview , were purchased for the Art Gallery of NSW in 1910, 1916 and 1920 respectively. By 1916 she was producing about twenty portraits a year but really preferred to do more complex compositions with several figures, like The Interview , in which a prospective young woman employer is interviewing a servant (evidently a cook) accompanied by her daughter. She received commissions to paint famous figures like Sir Adrian Knox (1920, ML), Sir William Cullen, Dame Nellie Melba, Julian Ashton, W.C. Wentworth and Henry Lawson (1913, ML). In 1919 the Art Gallery of NSW commissioned portraits of J.F. Archibald (1921) and Major General Sir William Bridges, the University of Sydney commissioned a portrait of Sir Alex McCormick. The Australian War Memorial commissioned portraits of Major General Sir William Bridges (1920), Brigadier General Henry MacLaurin (1922) and Captain Walter Gilchrist (1925).

Rodway exhibited throughout her life, most frequently before her marriage in 1920 to Walter Moore, a civil engineer, the birth of a daughter and the family’s return to Hobart. Even so, her work was included in the 1923 Exhibition of Australian Art at Burlington House, London, and in the following year’s British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. With Thea Proctor, Margaret Preston and thirteen male artists—including Sir John Longstaff, Arthur Streeton and Hans Heysen—she was again chosen to represent Australia (with The Interview ) in the second (1928) London exhibition of contemporary art of the Empire at the Imperial Institute, South Kensington. She had paintings in the 1934 Women Artists of Australia exhibition at Sydney and in the 1950-51 exhibitions of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors (when living in Melbourne). She died in Hobart on 23 January 1971.

Writers:
Bell, Pamela
AntheaGunn
Date written:
1995
Last updated:
2015