Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daisy Mary Rossi (1879–1974)

by Dorothy Erickson

This article was published:

Daisy Mary Rossi (1879-1974), artist and writer, was born on 18 January 1879 at Upper Wakefield, South Australia, fourth of eight children of William Rossi, a civil servant of Italian parentage, and his English-born wife Julia Emma, née Walter, an amateur artist and singer. Daisy spent her childhood at Auburn and Mount Barker until the family moved in 1900 to Adelaide, where she studied at the School of Design with Harry Gill and Archibald Collin and took lessons with Madame Berthe Mouchette. Under 4 ft 11 ins (150 cms) tall, brown-eyed, vivacious and forthright, she was later described by 'Eva Bright' (possibly a pen name for herself) as 'a tiny little Dresden shepherdess . . . with Cinderella's slippers peeping out . . . ''like mice beneath her petticoat” . . . [and] the smallest hand ever seen on a grown woman'.

Moving to Perth in 1905 to join her brother Guy, she studied with the painter and theosophist Florence Fuller. Daisy Rossi's work was shown in the Australian Exhibition of Women's Work in Victoria in 1907. From 1905 to 1913 she exhibited paintings and designs for interiors and furnishings with the Western Australian Society of Arts. Funded by commissioned portraits, including one of her future husband the architect George Thomas Temple Poole, and another of her friend Bessie Rischbieth, she went to London where she studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art under Walter Donne. After visiting Paris, in 1911 she returned to set up a studio at 300 Hay Street, Perth, also teaching at Fremantle Technical School and working as an interior designer.

Now painting in a more vigorous style, with a lighter palette and freer brush strokes, Rossi looked at Western Australian wildflowers with new eyes and started to paint them in their natural surroundings. She hoped to create a body of work that could be hung in a dedicated building, such as Marianne North's at Kew, England. She was commissioned to undertake a series for Savoy House in London, but the installation was abandoned during World War I; Sir John Winthrop Hackett donated two of the panels to the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Rossi exhibited in Adelaide, Perth and Sydney and at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, London, in 1924.

With an 'intense wish to make art, and the influence of art, felt', Rossi had become one of the first female members of the Town Planning Association in 1917 and arranged salons—gatherings of artists, writers and men and women of affairs—at her studio. On 23 December 1918 at the bishop's chapel, Perth, with Anglican rites she married Temple Poole, a widower. They lived at Tagel, Crawley, on the edge of Kings Park 'surrounded by bush'; she had a daughter Iseult in 1920. In 1926 a fire destroyed Daisy's studio and her European works, and she ceased to paint, because of her failing eyesight, her social commitments and her husband's health. The family moved to Darlington in the Darling Ranges; after George's death in 1934 she and Iseult lived in South Perth.

Writing for publications as Daisy Rossi, Daisy Temple Poole and 'Mary Temple', she also lectured, made radio broadcasts and continued to teach art. An improvement in her eyesight about 1960 enabled her to resume painting. Some later works were subsequently donated to the National Trust of Australia (Western Australia). In 1966 she moved to Victoria to live with her daughter, who survived her when she died on 4 August 1974 at North Geelong. She was cremated with Methodist forms.

Select Bibliography

  • L. W. Matters, Australasians Who Count in London and Who Counts in Western Australia (Lond, 1913)
  • J. Gooding, Western Australian Art and Artists 1900-1950 (Perth, 1987)
  • T. Snell, Cinderella on the Beach (Perth, 1991)
  • J. Kerr (ed), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book (Syd, 1995)
  • J. Altmann and J. Prott, Out of the Sitting-Room (Perth, 1999)
  • S. Daffen, The Daisy Rossi Wildflower Story (Perth, 199?)
  • Woman’s Budget, 22 June 1923, p 3
  • Trust News (National Trust of Australia (W.A.)), Dec 1996, p 8
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 8 July 1917, p 22
  • C. Bennett, 'Rossi’--Artist and Citizen in Early Twentieth Century Perth (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Western Australia, 1998).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Dorothy Erickson, 'Rossi, Daisy Mary (1879–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Temple Poole, Daisy
  • Temple, Mary

18 January, 1879
Upper Wakefield, South Australia, Australia


4 August, 1974 (aged 95)
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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