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Joshua Smith Vaike Liibus

Photo by Glenn Amer

Vaike Liibus (nee Sabbi, 1917–2008) arrived in Sydney from her native Estonia aged 11. She studied window dressing, millinery and art at East Sydney Technical College (now the National Art School), using her skills to dress her mother’s Paddington store display. Aged 22, and recently married, Liibus opened her own millinery business; however, World War II intervened and her Piccadilly Arcade shop closed. During the war years she studied under Hayward Veal at Max Meldrum’s Sydney school in Rowe Street, then at Julian Ashton’s art school in The Rocks, where her natural skill as a portraitist emerged.

Widowed in 1954, Liibus took solace in her art. Two years later, her first Archibald work – a portrait of artist Joshua Smith – was selected as a finalist; the same year this portrait of her by Smith was also hung.