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Colquhoun, Archibald Douglas (Archie) (1894–1983)

by Peter W. Perry

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Archibald Douglas (Archie) Colquhoun (1894-1983), artist and teacher, was born on 26 October 1894 at Heidelberg, Melbourne, second of four children of Scottish-born Alexander Colquhoun, artist, and his London-born wife Beatrice Helen, née Hoile, also a painter. Archie later recalled meeting many of the `Bohemian friendly crowd’ with whom his parents associated. His art training began at home as a `chief amusement’ before he attended the National Gallery schools in 1911. He studied drawing under Frederick McCubbin but, restless with his progress, left to join the Herald as a staff artist, while also briefly taking classes with Charles Douglas Richardson. When he met Max Meldrum, who had recently returned from France, Colquhoun found a mentor. He studied with him for several years before building a studio and exhibiting with other Meldrum students. By 1924 he realised that `I’d bust unless I got [abroad] and saw for myself’.

For the next three years Colquhoun travelled in France, Spain, Italy and England. His paintings were hung at the Société des Artistes Français, Paris (1924, 1925, 1926), and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, London (1925). He returned to Melbourne in 1926 and established a studio and art school at 125 Little Collins Street. With `a high ideal’ and `unquenchable zest for attainment’, the Age noted in 1929, he became a prominent painter and a dedicated, influential teacher. In 1933 he won the Crouch prize, and in 1934 the Newman prize for Australian historical painting. His pre-eminent students included (Sir) William Dargie, Harley C. Griffiths, Rex Bramleigh and Hayward Veal.

AMALIE SARAH FEILD (1894-1974), born on 20 March 1894 at Murtoa, Victoria, daughter of Australian-born parents Alfred Francis Feild, blacksmith, and his wife Louisa Caroline, née Degenhardt, was among Colquhoun’s early students. Amalie (`Millie’) commenced private art tuition as a child and, after teaching at Sebastopol State School for several years, studied drawing and design at the Ballarat Technical School. Recognising her abilities, the Victorian Education Department supported her study of pottery and stained glass at Sydney Technical College. On return to Ballarat, Feild initiated the teaching of pottery at the school and designed windows for St Andrew’s Presbyterian and Lydiard Street Methodist churches. In 1927 she was appointed an instructor in art at the Working Men’s College, and soon after began studying with Colquhoun. On 21 November 1931 they married in a civil ceremony in Melbourne. Amalie resigned from the college in 1933 to concentrate on portraiture and teaching at Colquhoun’s school. In 1934, in the first of their many joint exhibitions, her `graceful rhythmic fluency’ was praised as complementing his `directness of treatment’.

In 1936 the Colquhouns travelled to London. They rented a studio in Bloomsbury and held a successful exhibition at the Arlington Gallery in Old Bond Street. Portraits were commissioned and others shown in the 8th Annual British Empire Society of Arts Exhibition; their floral studies were hung in the United Society of Artists’ Exhibition. Already a foundation member of the Australian Academy of Art, Archie dismissed the `big noise’ of modernism. Returning to Melbourne in 1937, they both resumed teaching and painting. Over the following years Archie’s better-known commissioned portraits included those of the prime minister, Ben Chifley, the chief justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon and the archbishop of Brisbane, (Sir) James Duhig. Amalie gained increasing recognition for her sensitive portraits of children.

In 1950 the Colquhouns closed the school, and in 1954 moved from the city to Kew, establishing a studio and occasional gallery in their home. Their painting—including landscapes and seascapes reflecting summer and autumn travels—remained intensive. Archie, with goatee beard and usually wearing a tartan beret, was the more extrovert of the two; Millie, her hair always tied neatly back, the more disciplined and reflective. She died on 16 June 1974 in East Melbourne and was buried in Boroondara cemetery, Kew, with Anglican rites. Archie died on 14 May 1983 at Fitzroy, and was buried beside her. In November that year a memorial exhibition of their paintings was held at Adam Galleries, Melbourne.

The Colquhouns’ work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, the State galleries of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, and many regional galleries.

Select Bibliography

  • P. and J. Perry, Max Meldrum and Associates (1996)
  • Age (Melbourne), 13 Feb 1929, p 11, 3 July 1934, p 6
  • Herald (Melbourne), 17 July 1936, p 6
  • H. de Berg, interview with A. D. and A. Colquhoun (typescript, 1965, National Library of Australai).

Citation details

Peter W. Perry, 'Colquhoun, Archibald Douglas (Archie) (1894–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/colquhoun-archibald-douglas-archie-12339/text22167, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 January 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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