Violet Muriel Musgrave met WB McInnes – who would become the inaugural Archibald winner – while a student at Melbourne’s National Gallery School. They married in 1915. As for many women artists of the time, marriage and children took precedence over her career; however, in 1932, before a year-long European tour with her husband, Violet McInnes resumed painting.
From the 1930s, McInnes was a frequent exhibitor with the Australian Academy of Art, Victorian Artists Society and the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, much admired for her lively flower paintings. She held her debut solo exhibition in 1937, the year she first entered the Archibald Prize with a portrait of WB. After the death of her husband in 1938, which was followed by her son Malcolm dying in an RAAF air crash in 1939, McInnes immersed herself in her art.
McInnes most likely met Sybil Craig (1901–89) while Craig was attending WB’s classes at the National Gallery School in the late 1920s. In the 1940s, Craig cemented her place in the city’s modern art scene with her vivid, light-filled compositions. In 1945, she would become the third woman appointed as an official war artist, painting women working in Australian munitions factories.