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


Thea and Maggie taking tea



Vicki Varvaressos


07 Sep 1949 –

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    154.0 x 130.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated l.r 'VV 81'

    Gift of the artist 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Vicki Varvaressos

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Vicki Varvaressos

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Sydney-born Vicki Varvaressos attended the East Sydney Technical College (now National Art School) from 1970-73. She subsequently rose to artistic prominence forming part of a generation of feminist artists who addressed gender politics and critiqued the traditions of female imagery in their work. Varvaressos developed a signature figurative expressionist style that is both robust and lyrical, to paint subjects of often complex psychological intensity. Her paintings have depicted both the public and private worlds of women. While her work in the 1970s often satirised the depiction of females in the mass media, from the 1980s she began focusing on small, mysterious moments of more personalised narratives creating subjects from the ambiguities of everyday existence.

    Varvaressos has stated that "the pictorial elements of my work are about the interrelationship between individuals, their gestures and nuances of human interaction". She composes paintings that while visually connecting human figures, also inflate suggestions of the strains and psychological tensions that reside between them. Her turbulent brushwork extends the notion of inner states of being as determining connections and moments with others.

    An excellent example of these psychological tensions can be seen in 'Thea and Maggie taking tea'. The double portrait depicts two of Australia’s best-known modern artists, Thea Proctor and Margaret Preston – recognisable from her self-portrait, a highlight of the Gallery's collection. Friends, and professional rivals, Proctor and Preston held joint exhibitions in the 1920s until a rumoured falling out occurred which reportedly involved Preston throwing a cake at Proctor after discovering that the AGNSW trustees had preferred Proctor's prints to her own.

    Varvaressos depicts the women taking tea together, a ritual which held great importance to Proctor (her students recalled how classes in her studio always involved tea). Expressively painted, with Varvaressos's signature pink and purple palette, it is up to the viewer to decide if this is an antagonistic or conciliatory meeting between the artists.

    Margaret Preston's painting 'Thea Proctor's tea party', also in the Gallery's collection, adds further dimension to the multi-layered relationship between these three artists and their works in the Gallery's collection.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

Other works by Vicki Varvaressos

See all 9 works