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Darbyshire, Beatrice Dean (1901–1988)

by Barbara Chapman

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

Beatrice Dean Darbyshire (1901-1988), artist, was born on 31 March 1901 in Perth, eldest of three children of Benjamin Harvie Darbyshire, a Uruguayan-born barrister, and his wife Agnes, née Campbell, who came from Victoria. Beatrice was educated at Miss Jobson’s school, Perth, and at Geelong Church of England Girls’ Grammar School (the Hermitage), Victoria (1915-17). As a child she had shown talent at drawing and, encouraged by her parents, had begun Saturday classes with Henri Van Raalte about 1913. After returning from Geelong, she continued to study and work with him. She frequently visited Netherton farm, Balingup, the home of her aunt Jean Lukis. Her young cousin Mollie Lukis was a constant companion and model and the landscape of tall trees was to inspire some of her best work.

In 1921 Darbyshire exhibited with the Western Institute of Artists at the Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia. Advised by Van Raalte, in 1924 she travelled to London and enrolled at the Royal College of Art, where she studied engraving under Malcolm Osborne. Among her fellow pupils were Eric Ravilious, Iain Macnab and Charles Tunnicliffe. In 1924 and 1925 two of her dry-points, `The Cowshed, Balingup’, and `In the Blackwood Country’, were chosen for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. On both occasions she received a certificate of honour and a bronze medal. After graduating in 1927 with a diploma from RCA she returned to Perth and had an etching press made to the same specifications as that of Van Raalte.

Darbyshire’s first solo exhibition was held in 1933 at Newspaper House Art Gallery. That year she met (Dame) Mary Durack and visited her and her family at their stations in the Kimberley region. She made numerous portraits of Aborigines that were later developed into dry-points and etchings. In 1937 her work was included in the Exhibition of Western Australian Art 1826-1937, at the Western Australian Museum and Art Gallery. Later that year she showed her work jointly with James Linton at Newspaper House. She exhibited with the Perth Society of Artists in 1938 and 1939.

Reputedly the finest etcher working in Western Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, Darbyshire suddenly gave up printmaking in 1940. Her seemingly inexplicable decision appears to have been due in part to her natural reticence, combined with the loneliness of working in isolation and the desire for a more active life. Also, the artists she most admired and wished to emulate—Charles Meryon, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and members of the Barbizon school of painter-etchers—were being supplanted in the public imagination by the modernists. She joined the Women’s League of Health and moved to Sydney in 1940 to train as an instructor. Next year she displayed her work at the league’s headquarters. Back in Perth in 1944, she ran the State branch for about twelve years. She wrote occasional articles for, and illustrated, the league’s quarterly publication Movement, and gave several art lectures. In 1970 she donated her long unused press to Perth Technical College.

In the 1970s Hendrik Kolenberg rediscovered Darbyshire’s work and mounted an exhibition, Archibald Webb, Edith Trethowan and Beatrice Darbyshire: Western Australian Printmakers of the 1920s and 1930s, which toured Australia in l979-81. In 1987 the Art Gallery of Western Australia included her in Western Australian Art and Artists, 1900-1950. She died unmarried on 31 July 1988 at Mosman Park, Perth, and was cremated with Anglican rites. Her work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Trust of Australia (Western Australia), Royal Western Australian Historical Society, and in private collections.

Select Bibliography

  • A. B. Webb, Edith Trethowan and Beatrice Darbyshire (1979)
  • J. Gooding, Western Australian Art and Artists, 1900-1950 (1987)
  • B. Chapman, Beatrice Darbyshire (1990)
  • Westerly, no 1, Mar 1982, p 89, no 4, Dec 1986, p 53
  • West Australian, 3 Aug 1988, p 44.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Barbara Chapman, 'Darbyshire, Beatrice Dean (1901–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/darbyshire-beatrice-dean-12399/text22289, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 17 November 2018.

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

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