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Lovett, Mildred Esther (1880–1955)

by Sue Backhouse and Hendrik Kolenberg

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Mildred Esther Lovett (1880-1955), artist, was born on 13 September 1880 in Hobart Town, eldest of four children of Edward Frederick Lovett, clerk, and his wife Alice Edith, née Gibson. She attended Mrs H. Barnard's Ladies' School in 1887-93, and was trained in the domestic arts by her mother. On leaving school she worked as a retoucher at Richard McGuffie's photographic studio. In 1896-1901 she studied painting, modelling, life-drawing and china-painting at Hobart Technical School under Benjamin Sheppard; a fellow pupil was Florence Rodway. In 1898-99 she spent six months at Julian Ashton's art school in Sydney.

Returning to Hobart Miss Lovett painted miniatures, gave private tuition and in 1906-08 taught modelling and life-drawing at Hobart Technical School. Lucien Dechaineux encouraged her to start china-painting classes, and supplied her with designs from native flora. In 1909 in Art and Architecture Ashton praised her 'superior' china-painting. A vase she painted that year from a design by Sydney Long (Art Gallery of New South Wales) is one of the most characteristic examples of Australian Art Nouveau work.

Early in 1909 Miss Lovett moved to Sydney and in 1910 succeeded Long as second-in-charge of Ashton's Sydney Art School. Until the mid-1930s she exhibited regularly with the Art Society of Tasmania and the Society of Artists, Sydney, serving on the latter's committee in 1911-19.

On 19 November 1913 at the Presbyterian Church, Manly, Mildred Lovett married Stanley Livingstone Paterson, clerk; they soon moved to Brisbane where she met and painted with Vida Lahey who became a close friend. In 1917 Lovett painted a full-length portrait in oils of Ashton (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery). She returned to Hobart in 1919, and in 1921 opened her own studio and supervised the evening students at the Technical School. In 1924 she was represented at the British Empire Exhibition and in 1926-27 exhibited in Sydney with 'A Group of Modern Painters' (soon the Contemporary Group), founded by George Lambert and Thea Proctor. Versatile, she painted landscapes in oils and won a considerable reputation for her portraits and elegant figure drawings.

Appointed art instructor at Hobart Technical College in 1925, Mildred Lovett took leave of absence in 1929 and with her husband went overseas. She enrolled at the Westminster School of Art, London, and at the Académie Lhote in Paris; she made copious notes about Lhote's cubist theories. She visited many galleries, finding works by Gauguin 'bonza' and Marie Laurencin 'delightful. Like a lark singing … (quite feminine and valuable for that reason alone)'. She was also enthusiastic about old masters, notably Memling, the Van Eycks, Montegna, Pisanello and in Florence 'Everything'.

At Hobart Technical College in 1930-40, Mildred Lovett was 'one of a very select group of teachers in Australia … who had any sympathy or understanding for Cubism'. Her art department 'was recognized as one of the most enlightened in Australia'. A council-member of the Art Society of Tasmania she made the first of her few lithographs in 1932. Quiet and unassuming, she was always open minded. With dark hair, she had a strong face and serene expression. Her students included Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar in Sydney and Jean Bellette, Joseph Connor, Edith Holmes, Amie Kingston and Dorothy Stoner in Tasmania. From 1940 she lived in Sydney but returned to Hobart in 1952 and gave some private classes. She died childless on 23 March 1955 at Sandy Bay.

Select Bibliography

  • D. H. Skinner and J. Kroeger (eds), Renniks Australian Artists, no 1 (Adel, 1968)
  • Important Women Artists (Gallery), Mildred Lovett 1880-1955 and Her Students, exhibition catalogue (Melb, 1980)
  • H. Kolenberg, Edith Holmes, Dorothy Stoner: Two Retrospectives, exhibition catalogue (Hob, 1983)
  • Lone Hand, 1 May 1913
  • Illustrated Tasmanian Mail, 29 Sept 1921, 22 Sept 1932
  • Hobart Technical College records (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Lovett letters to her family, London and Paris, 1929 (copy in Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Sue Backhouse and Hendrik Kolenberg, 'Lovett, Mildred Esther (1880–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lovett-mildred-esther-7249/text12557, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 17 July 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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