Through the gum trees, Toongabbie
Hilda Rix Nicholas
01 Sep 1884 - 03 Aug 1961
From 1907-1918, the Ballarat-born Hilda Rix Nicholas lived and travelled extensively throughout Western Europe as well as making several trips to Morocco. While she held to traditions of representation in her art, the paintings produced during this time are marked by the post-impressionist influence of bolder colour and more simplified forms that Rix Nicholas combined with what became an enduring focus on the impact of light on her subjects. Her exhibiting history in Paris included a one-woman show in 1912 of works she produced in Spain and Morocco. Working between her studio in Paris as well as from the artist colonies at Étaples, Rix Nicholas achieved a considerable reputation as a painter and had works acquired by the French Government during this time.
The declaration of war, and the personal devastation that resulted for Rix Nicholas, put a halt to her travels. She returned to Australia in 1918 and lived and exhibited in Melbourne and Sydney. While she became known for her heroized portraits of soldiers at a time of emerging Anzac mythologies, her paintings that resulted from her tours of regional New South Wales gave impetus to a parallel artistic identity as an exceptional painter of the Australian landscape.
In 1924 Rix Nicholas returned to Europe and there, the following year, she exhibited her Australian subjects to great acclaim in Paris and Britain. Amongst these works was the outstanding landscape Through the gum trees, Toongabbie c1920. This beautifully orchestrated composition was designed to take in the expanse of the landscape through the horizontal and shadowed patterns of gum trees. Through her distinct palette, delivering inflections of blue brushwork across the brown colouring of the land, Rix Nicholas achieves a feel for the crisp, clear light of the vista, where clouds, trees and landforms all appear to move in rhythmic sync.
Through the gum trees, Toongabbie is a celebratory image of the Australian landscape. With the post war connotations of the restorative power of light and the land, the work is indicative of the larger ideas of place and of national character that Rix Nicholas promoted in her exhibition of Australian subjects in Europe in 1925.
oil on canvas
65.7 x 81.9 cm stretcher; 75.0 x 90.7 x 4.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r., black oil "EH Rix Nicholas". Not dated.
Dagmar Halas Bequest Fund 2016
© Estate of Hilda Rix Nicholas
Shown in 6 exhibitions
Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by E. Hilda Rix Nicholas:
Hilda Rix Nicholas, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 16 Jan 1925–30 Jan 1925
Hilda Rix Nicholas: Australian Life and Landscape, Beaux Arts Gallery, 08 Oct 1925–29 Oct 1925
Hilda Rix Nicholas 1884-1961, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 30 Aug 1978–18 Sep 1978
Hilda Rix Nicholas: The Man for the Job, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, 23 Jan 2010–05 Apr 2010
Une Australienne: Hilda Rix Nicholas in Paris, Tangier and Sydney, Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman, 03 May 2014–13 Jul 2014
Referenced in 3 publications
Hilda Rix Nicholas: her life and art, Melbourne, 2000, pp. 44, 67, pl. 17 (illus.).
Hilda Rix Nicholas: the man for the job, Bendigo, 2010, p. 25 (illus.).
Une Australienne: Hillda Rix Nicholas in Paris, Tangier & Sydney, Mosman, 2014, pp. 52, 77 (illus. p. 53).