Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Australian art

View More:


Figure with scales



Joy Hester


21 Aug 1920 - 04 Dec 1960


Joy Hester's incisive and forcefully rendered drawings are unique among the circle of artists associated with Melbourne patrons John and Sunday Reed, including Albert Tucker, to whom she was briefly married. After her diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease in 1947, Hester left Tucker and their young son, for a new life with the artist and poet Gray Smith.

The subject of Hester's 'Figure with scales' arose from a period spent in the rural area of Avonsleigh outside Melbourne where she and Smith eked out a living on the land, growing crops and keeping chickens for a time. After a spell of warm weather, and without refrigeration, the newly slaughtered birds began to decay, the scheme ending in disaster. 'Figure with scales' conveys a surreal, dream-like strangeness that charges a simple, everyday subject with poetic and emotional force and epitomises the extraordinary expressive power and psychological insight that is characteristic of Hester's drawings.


Other Title

Figure with Scale



Media categories

Drawing , Watercolour

Materials used

brush and ink, watercolour, gouache on paper on cardboard


57.9 x 46.2 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated c., pencil "Joy Hester '57".


John Gillespie Bequest Fund 2013


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Joy Hester

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 17 publications


Michael Brand, Look, 'From the Gallery director', pg. 11, Sydney, Sep 2013, 11.

Janine Burke, Joy Hester, Elwood, 1983, 164 (illus.).

Janine Burke, Joy Hester, Melbourne, 1981, 50 (illus.). titled 'Figure with Scale'; 66

Charles and Barbara Blackman, Art and Australia (Vol. 18, No. 1), 'Artist'ts choice No. 5- Joy Hester', pg. 68-70, Sydney, Spring 1980, 68. reference to context and media of 'Figure with scales'

Hal Crawford (Editor in Chief),, 'Art Gallery NSW snaps up Grundy works', Sydney, 01 Jul 2013, n.pag.. viewed 01.07.2013,

Alexandra Djurichkovic., Australian art collector online, 'AGNSW reveals major new Australian acquisitions', Sydney, 03 Jul 2013, n.pag.. viewed 03.07.2013,

Steve Dow.,, 'Gasps as Art Gallery of NSW shells out millions on Brack', Sydney, 01 Jul 2013, n.pag.. viewed 01.07.2013,

Steve Dow,, 'Gallery's $3.85m painting splurge causes a few gasps', pg. 20, Sydney, 02 Jul 2013, 20.

Steve Dow.,, 'Sold! Grundy art collection takes in record $19m', Sydney, 26 Jun 2013, n.pag.. viewed 26.06.2013,

Deborah Hart, Joy Hester and friends, 'Other worlds: 1947-1960', pg. 55-119, Melbourne, 2001, 90, 91 (colour illus.).

Terry Ingham.,, 'AGNSW makes big breakfast of Grundy', Armadale, 01 Jul 2013, n.pag.. viewed 02.07.2013,

Caroline Jordan, Important Australian art from the collection of Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy, 'Joy Hester', pg. 46-47, Sydney, 2013, 46, 47 (colour illus.). lot no. 11; estimated price $80,000-120,000.

National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Paintings from the collection of Allen D. Christensen, ‘Paintings from the collection of Allen D. Christensen’, pg. 1-15, Melbourne, 1976, 4. titled 'Figure with Scale'; 18

Jeni Porter (Editor in Chief), The Australian Financial Review, 'Art Gallery of NSW gets back in the Brack', Melbourne, 04 Jul 2013, 18. author unknown

Anne Ryan, Look, 'Joy Hester: important addition to the Gallery collection', pg. 10-11, Sydney, Apr 2014, 10, 11 (colour illus.).

Katrina Strickland, The Australian Financial Review, 'Public galleries go for Grundys', pg. 3, Melbourne, 29 Jun 2013-30 Jun 2013, 3.

Tammy Weller.,, 'Art Gallery of NSW acquires new Australian works', Australia, 02 Jul 2013, n.pag. (colour illus.). viewed 04.07.2013,