We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Cocktail hour

circa 1950


Elizabeth Rooney


1929 – 02 Mar 2016

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Sydney New South Wales Australia
    circa 1950
    Media category
    Materials used
    etching, printed in black ink with plate tone on ivory wove paper
    17.0 x 12.6 cm platemark; 33.0 x 26.6 cm sheet
    Signature & date

    Signed l.r., pencil "E Rooney". Not dated.

    Gift of Diana Rosewell 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Elizabeth Rooney

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Elizabeth Rooney

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Elizabeth Rooney was a major figure in the revival of printmaking in Sydney in the post-war period. Born in Sydney, she studied painting and drawing at East Sydney Technical College in the late 1940s, and towards the end of her studies began making etchings under the influence of one of her teachers, Herbert Gallop. She soon discovered that prints were her metier.

    Unable to travel or study abroad and with printmaking in a moribund state locally, she was forced to teach herself how to make prints using the books of British printmaker S W Hayter (1901-88). Through discussions with other artists - her first etching press was given to her in 1954 by Bim Hilder - and experimentation with techniques and materials, she was to produce a distinctive oeuvre of over 400 etchings spanning more than five decades.

    A key protagonist in the contemporary printmaking revival that occurred in Sydney in the early 1960s, she was a foundation member of the Sydney Printmakers group that included Henry Salkauskas, Earle Backen and Eva Kubbos, and a regular exhibitor with the Contemporary Art Society. Her work was included in the important ‘First Australia-wide graphic art exhibition’, an event that marked the beginning of the 1960s print revival in Australia. In 1961 she was co-founder with Joy Ewart, of the Workshop Arts Centre, Willoughby, an important community art workshop still in operation today.

    Rooney’s prints were often bitingly satirical – she was interested in urban conservation and development, referring to the changing faces of Sydney and Newcastle in her work. An early phase of abstraction in the 1960s was something of an aberration, with the majority of her works executed with her trademark linear figuration.

    This print and 'Philomena awake' are companion images of female experience – one of domesticity, the other a city club or bar - with single figures surrounded by their social or domestic millieus. At the time Rooney was still living at home with her family in suburban Strathfield. The prints suggest both a contentment with her lot but also the competing and hidden forces that lay beneath the middle-class facade of post war suburban life.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


Other works by Elizabeth Rooney

See all 21 works