Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Latour, Loma Kyle (1902–1964)

by Jan Roberts

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Loma Kyle Latour (1902-1964), sculptor, was born on 16 May 1902 at Mellool station, Moulamein, New South Wales, daughter of Victorian-born parents George Stewart Turnbull, station manager, and his wife Louisa, née Scott (d.1903), a writer and china painter. At her mother's wish Loma was not baptized. 'Farmed out' to relations in England, she was educated by governesses and at boarding school. At the age of 12 she returned to Australia with three enduring characteristics: a cultivated English accent, a rebellious spirit and a passion for art. Her father had remarried, but Loma never met her stepmother. She was sent to stay with relations and repeatedly ran away. After one blazing row, she went to Sydney and changed her name to 'Latour' (also spelt 'Lautour'). Concealing her age, she acted in melodramas and took walk-on parts in Shakespearian plays with Allan Wilkie's company. As actor, model and artist, she led a bohemian existence. On 28 December 1928 at the registrar general's office, Sydney, she married Raymond, second son of Norman Lindsay; they separated in the mid-1930s.

With her unconventional direct speech and stylish good looks, Latour was regularly interviewed and photographed in her Kings Cross studio, chain-smoking and briefly clad. Influenced by Jacob Epstein and trained by Rayner Hoff, she became well known as a sculptor. She worked hard to earn her living, often for eighteen hours a day, making everything from china dolls' heads to large papier-mâché figures for the 1938 Sydney sesquicentenary floats; she also produced masks, bronze and terracotta busts of friends like Dulcie Deamer, lino-cuts, jewellery and Art Deco chrome-metal lights. Her output was prodigious, and original.

In Sydney in the 1930s Latour exhibited with the Women's Industrial Art Society, the Society of Artists, the Contemporary Art Society and the Royal Art Society. In 1936 the National Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased 'The Egoist', her glazed earthenware bust of George Bernard Shaw. She taught modelling and pottery, and was employed at Mashman Bros Ltd's pottery works in 1936; in addition, she executed numerous large-scale plaster, brass and concrete murals and fountains, as for the Minerva Theatre, Kings Cross, in 1938. The nude was her favourite subject and Holly Farram her favourite model.

In 1940 Latour moved to Lansvale intending to breed dogs, to garden and to write. At St Columba's Presbyterian Church, Woollahra, on 28 March 1941, the day her previous marriage was dissolved, she married Victor Clarence ('Jamie') Jamieson, a fitter in the Australian Imperial Force. He left for Singapore on 10 April and became a prisoner of war. For a time Latour made camouflage at Bankstown before returning to inner Sydney. Jamieson was discharged from the army in June 1946; his health was poor, the marriage shaky, and he was drinking heavily (as was Loma). He died at her studio 'on or about' 21 July 1946 after accidentally drinking cyanide from a beer bottle. She eventually secured a war-widow's pension.

Moving to Brisbane in 1950, Latour immediately attracted favourable reviews when she exhibited her masks, pottery and jewellery with the Royal Queensland Art Society, the Moreton Galleries and the Half Dozen Group of Artists. She formed new friendships, especially with the antique dealer Cecilia McNally, who sold her jewellery. Latour soon bought a waterfront acreage on Stradbroke Island. There she lived contentedly in a studio-shack with assorted animals and 'cousin Roy' Needrie, a jeweller. She established a vineyard and orchard, going about naked or in a lap-lap. In 1962 she suffered a vicious sexual assault from which she never fully recovered. Latour died of emphysema and asthma on 19 December 1964 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes; she bequeathed her eyes to the Eye Bank and her body to the University of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Kerr (ed), Heritage (Syd, 1995)
  • Clay Products Journal, Dec 1935, July 1936, July 1937, July 1939, Nov 1940
  • People (Sydney), 9 Apr 1950, p 34, 10 May 1950, p 41
  • Australian Antique Collector, 1986, p 70
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June, 9, 30 July 1936, 5 Aug 1937, 21 June, 7, 21 July 1938, 5 Jan, 16 Feb, 10 July 1939, 'Women's Supplement', 30 Apr 1940
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 22 Aug 1950, 14 Dec 1953
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 15 Dec 1953, 21 Dec 1964
  • L. K. Latour database and scrapbook (Queensland Art Gallery Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jan Roberts, 'Latour, Loma Kyle (1902–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/latour-loma-kyle-10788/text19133, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 July 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Lautour, Loma
  • Turnbull, Loma
  • Jamieson, Loma
  • Lindsay, Loma
Birth

16 May 1902
Moulamein, New South Wales, Australia

Death

19 December 1964
Greenslopes, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Occupation