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Tuck, Marie Anne (1866–1947)

by Ruth Tuck

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Marie Anne Tuck (1866-1947), artist, was born on 5 September 1866 at Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide hills, daughter of Edward Starkey Tuck, teacher, and his wife Amy Harriet, née Tayler, both English born. With her three sisters and three brothers, she received a liberal education at her father's school. From 1886 Marie attended James Ashton's Norwood Art School in the evenings and worked for a florist by day. Wishing to study in Paris, she began teaching at nights. In 1896 she moved to Perth where she again taught painting and worked for a florist; she saved carefully and in 1906 left for France. She altered her age, subtracting six years.

She idolized her mentor, Rupert Bunny, whose lessons she paid for by cleaning his studio, fuelling the stoves and sweeping snow from the door. Marie spent summers in Brittany, painting village life. In 1908 she sent a huge painting 'The Fish Market' to Adelaide for the 11th Federal Exhibition of the (Royal) South Australian Society of Arts; the National Gallery of South Australia bought it for 100 guineas. That year she exhibited 'Les Commères' and 'Fishwife' at the salon de la Société des Artistes Français, Paris. Her work was hung in the next four salon showings and in 1911 she received honorable mention for her 'Toilette de la Mariée', now in the Queen Adelaide Club.

After the outbreak of World War I Tuck returned home where she taught life-drawing and painting at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts. She insisted on nude models; her natural dignity and authority ensured that her request was accepted. Still frugal, she built a small live-in studio and garden at Frewville where students gathered on Saturdays to eat nasturtium-leaf sandwiches, drink mulberry wine and talk about Paris. Her 1920 exhibition was criticized by the Bulletin for including slapdash pictures, but her plein air work was praised by the Advertiser at her 1924 and 1933 exhibitions. Marie continued to teach (until 1939), to paint portraits and to execute large religious works, including those for Reims Cathedral, France.

She loved music and owned a silver-stringed spinet. At work she wore a shift, buttoned in front, with loose sleeves; on festive occasions, she chose lavish trimmings. She was barely 5 ft (153 cm) tall. Her spiky, grey hair was arranged like a Japanese doll, her face and hands were pale and freckled, her lips thin. What mattered were the eyes, faded with age to a luminous green-grey, the irises rimmed with light. A dedicated and inspiring teacher, with a sweet voice, she had many devoted students, among them Ivor Hele and John Dowie.

Although unmarried, Marie Tuck regarded brides as 'those fortunate ones'. When France fell in 1940 she had a stroke, but continued to paint, with difficulty, until her death on 3 September 1947 at Glen Osmond. Born a Methodist, she had adopted Anglicanism. Her paintings are in the art galleries of South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. At her 1971 retrospective, Dowie commented that she 'had the dancing, broken touch of a painter interested in light and atmosphere. Her palette was high-keyed and pure … she … taught us what an artist should be'.

Select Bibliography

  • Catalogue of the National Gallery of South Australia (Adel, 1946)
  • R. Biven, Some Forgotten, Some Remembered (Adel, 1976)
  • N. Benko, Art and Artists of South Australia (Adel, 1969)
  • C. Ambrus, The Ladies' Picture Show (Syd, 1984)
  • Critic (Adelaide), 27 Sept 1905
  • South Australian Society of Arts, Kalori, Mar 1964
  • J. Robertson, ‘Marie Tuck’, in Personalities Remembered (radio talk, 11 Dec 1971, manuscript, State Library of South Australia)
  • family papers and letters (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ruth Tuck, 'Tuck, Marie Anne (1866–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tuck-marie-anne-8866/text15567, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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