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Winner: Archibald Prize 1938

Nora Heysen Mme Elink Schuurman

oil on canvas

87 x 68 cm

Image courtesy Catherine Speck

Nora Heysen won the Archibald Prize for this portrait of Adine Michèle Elink Schuurman (nee Lambert), the French wife of the Dutch consul-general to Australia.

As the first woman to win the prize, there was a lot of interest in Heysen’s work and life. It emerged in the press coverage that she had been in her kitchen when told of her win; consequently she was also, apparently, the first Archibald winner to have been approached to supply their favourite recipes for The Australian Women’s Weekly (4 February 1939, p4). Her favourites? Hungarian goulash, duck with olive sauce and Chilean stuffed green peppers.

Artist Max Meldrum’s controversial public stance pillorying Heysen’s success was unyielding. He declared, ‘If I were a woman, I would certainly prefer raising a healthy family to a career in art’.