Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gwendolyn Muriel Grant (1877–1968)

by Keith Bradbury

This article was published:

Gwendolyn Muriel Grant (1877-1968), artist, was born on 24 May 1877 at Ipswich, Queensland, elder daughter of Montague Henry Stanley, a station-manager from Scotland, and his Irish-born wife Maud Annie Kirkpatrick, née Craig. Following her mother's death in 1879, Gwendolyn was raised by maternal relations in Brisbane. Her father made visits from his rural base and her childhood was a happy one. Educated at the Misses Clark's School, Toowong, she studied art at Brisbane Technical College under Godfrey Rivers and entered the (Royal) Queensland Art Society's annual exhibition in 1899. While employed as a governess on several stations in North Queensland from 1902, she continued painting and exhibiting, and in 1906 held a successful solo exhibition at the Kent Buildings, Brisbane.

In 1907 Miss Stanley made the challenging journey to Melbourne where she studied for five years at the National Gallery schools under Bernard Hall, Frederick McCubbin and Leslie Wilkie. She returned to Brisbane in 1912, shared a studio with Vida Lahey, served on the council of the Q.A.S. and taught art classes. Liberal, fashionably bohemian and with an active intellect, she was not awed by contention. On 22 November 1915 at Taringa she married with Presbyterian forms William Gregory Grant (d.1951), an artist later estimated by Lloyd Rees to be 'the most dynamic painter' in Brisbane. While raising her two children (b.1917 and 1920), 'Stan', as she was called by her husband, maintained her professional life. She was affable, ambitious and tenacious, and her soft voice belied her self-confidence. Grand-daughter of Montague Stanley (a member of the Royal Scottish Academy), she was well-connected in local society and, with her husband, played competition golf. She was president (1923) of the local Lyceum Club and wrote on art for the Daily Mail. Mrs Grant exhibited regularly with the Victorian Artists Society and the Society of Women Painters, New South Wales; she staged fifteen solo exhibitions and held four joint-exhibitions with her husband.

She regularly entered for the Archibald prize and from 1920 her reputation as a portrait painter was gradually established. An academic Impressionist, concerned with light and its effects, she once contended that a painting should convey 'the artist's thoughts to the onlooker so clearly that no title is needed'. Her many depictions of domestic subjects were inspired more by models of female 'independence'—based on 'the notion of a femininity of which the moral inspiration was the home and family'—than by any popular themes in contemporary painting. Grant continued to teach art at the Brisbane Technical College until she was 75. Survived by her son and daughter, she died on 17 April 1968 at Herston and was cremated. Her studies of Sir James Blair and Professor B. D. Steele are held by the University of Queensland; another portrait, 'Winter Sunshine', was purchased by the Queensland Art Gallery in 1938.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Lahey, Art in Queensland, 1859-1959 (Brisb, 1959)
  • L. Rees, The Small Treasures of a Lifetime (Syd, 1969)
  • K. Bradbury and G. R. Cooke, Thorns and Petals (Brisb, 1988)
  • B. Larner, A Complementary Caste (Surfers Paradise, Qld, 1988)
  • K. Bradbury and A. Grant, Gwendolyn and W. G. Grant, Their Art and Life (Brisb, 1990)
  • B. Macaulay, Partners in Art (Brisb, 1990)
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 18 Apr 1958
  • A. Philp, The Society of Women Painters 1910-1934 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1990).

Citation details

Keith Bradbury, 'Grant, Gwendolyn Muriel (1877–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Stanley, Gwendolyn

24 May, 1877
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia


17 April, 1968 (aged 90)
Herston, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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