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Gladys Mary Owen (1889–1960)

by Cedric Flower

This article was published:

Gladys Mary Owen is a minor entry in this article

John Drummond Macpherson Moore (1888-1958), artist and architect, was born on 6 September 1888 at Waverley, Sydney, son of Frederic Moore, draughtsman, and his wife Emily Mary, née Macpherson. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and later studied painting at Julian Ashton's Sydney Art School. Articled in 1908 to McCredie & Anderson, architects, about 1913 he visited San Francisco, United States of America, and worked in the New York office of the architect B. G. Goodhue in 1914-15. Moving to London he enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1915, was commissioned and served in France. After the war he studied in London at the Polytechnic School of Art and the Architectural Association school.

Returning to Sydney in 1919 after some months in New York, Moore set up practice as an architect and was known professionally as John D. Moore. In 1919-35 he was instructor in architectural design and draughtsmanship at the University of Sydney. At Wahroonga on 2 October 1924 he married Casiphia Dorothy Morton; she died in 1931, leaving two sons. On 23 June 1932 he married Gladys Mary Owen (1889-1960) at St Michael's Anglican Church, Vaucluse.

Of medium height and sturdy build, Moore was a man of even temper with many friends. A partner in Wardell, Moore & Dowling from 1927, he managed a satisfying balance between painting and architecture in his professional life. Most of his architecture was domestic, but he also designed projects for hospitals and schools and a Roman Catholic cathedral (as yet unbuilt) for Canberra. A friend of Winifred West, he designed many buildings for her school, Frensham, winning the Sulman prize for its West wing in 1937; he later served on the school council and encouraged her to develop the craft centre, Sturt. In the 1930s Moore campaigned for the preservation of the Hyde Park Barracks and in 1937 was appointed to the Board of Architects of New South Wales. In World War II he was deputy director of camouflage for New South Wales in 1942-45.

A fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, from 1943 he practised in several short-lived partnerships and sometimes alone. In magazine articles, radio broadcasts and his book, Home Again (1944), Moore deplored reliance on 'styles' and 'isms', advocating a rational approach to planning and design in keeping with Australian conditions. Philosophically his ideas had much in common with those of the architects Hardy Wilson and Leslie Wilkinson.

As a painter in watercolours and oils, Moore was noted for his freshness of approach to the Australian landscape. In the 1930s he was a member of the Contemporary Group of Sydney and was classed among such 'moderns' as Rah Fizelle and Margaret Preston, more because of his skill at composition and distinctive palette of pinks and indigos than for any urge to adopt forms of expressionism or abstraction. Between 1925 and 1951 he held eight exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. He was a vice-president of the Society of Artists and in 1954 was awarded its medal. His best-known painting is probably a sparkling oil of Sydney Harbour, bought by the National Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1936; it was painted from the family home he designed at Vaucluse.

Survived by his wife and sons of his first marriage, Moore died at Vaucluse on 9 December 1958 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

His second wife Gladys was born on 1 July 1889 at Hunters Hill, daughter of (Sir) Langer Meade Loftus Owen and his wife Mary Louisa Dames, née Longworth. Educated privately, she studied painting with Gerald Fitzgerald and Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo and at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, London, and in Europe.

During World War I Miss Owen was foundation joint honorary secretary (1914-27) of the local branch of the British Red Cross Society under Mrs Eleanor MacKinnon. An executive member of the local Victoria League and vice-president of the Women's Loyalty League of New South Wales, she addressed recruiting meetings and campaigned early for conscription. In 1918 she was appointed O.B.E.

Gladys Owen visited Britain and Europe in 1924: her paintings were accepted by the Spring Salon in Paris and by the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, London. She was a member of the Australian Water-Colour Institute and held several exhibitions. Nancy Phelan described her as 'a lively painter with dangling earrings and plaits round her ears like Chelsea buns'. In the 1930s she wrote many articles and book reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald. Employed full time by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, she was in charge of the State 'Women's Session' in 1933-36 and talks editor in 1936-38, Federal supervisor of the 'Children's Session' and adviser on women's interests in 1938-40, and part-time talks officer in 1946-49. In 1937 she was appointed a trustee of the Public Library of New South Wales.

Gladys Moore had continued her work for the Red Cross. She was director of the civil section of the Women's Australian National Service in 1940, a council-member of the State division of the Red Cross in 1940-49 and of national headquarters in 1943-49, and honorary secretary of the State Red Cross Field Service in 1941-43. From 1950 she was president of the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. She died, childless, of heart disease at Edgecliff on 18 July 1960.

An early portrait of John Moore by David Barker is held by his son David, a distinguished photographer, and one by Norman Carter is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Kennedy, Portrait of Winifred West (Syd, 1976)
  • Art in Australia, no 8, 1921
  • Art and Australia, 2, no 4, 1974
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Oct 1924
  • W. H. Gill and Winifred West papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Cedric Flower, 'Owen, Gladys Mary (1889–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moore, Gladys Mary

1 July, 1889
Hunters Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


18 July, 1960 (aged 71)
Edgecliff, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia