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Janet Agnes Cumbrae Stewart (1883-1960)

Janet Agnes Cumbrae Stewart (1883-1960)

Australian born Janet Cumbrae Stewart is now considered one of the most technically masterly women artists of the 1920s and 30s.

Born in 1883 in Brighton, near Melbourne, Janet Agnes Stewart (later to adopt the name Cumbrae Stewart in around 1900) was to become one of the most well known and highly sought after artists of the early twentieth century. Despite the prominence she received in her lifetime, Cumbrae Stewart has receded from public attention, her works circulating amongst private collections and family members for the past half-century. However, at the turn of the twenty-first century, nearly 50 years after her death, interest in this enigmatic figure has been revived with an exhibition of her work at the Mornington Peninsula Gallery, Melbourne, in 2003. She is can now to be considered as one of the most technically masterful and culturally astute female artists of the 1920s and 30s.

Her pastel work is predominantly centred on studies of the female nude, modelled by her peers at the National Gallery School where she studied between 1901 and 1907, and close family friends with whom she holidayed in an idyllic home near Melbourne. The depictions of these women are characterised by a lack of superfluous background detail and a painterly application of hand-softened pastel.

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