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Eliza Jeanettie Sheldon (1885–1974)

by Keith Bradbury

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Edwin Arthur Vincent Sheldon

Eliza Jeanettie Sheldon (1885-1974), art-dealer, and Edwin Arthur Vincent Sheldon (1895-1945), artist, were born on 24 May 1885 at Williamstown, Victoria, and 3 July 1895 in South Brisbane, eldest and youngest of five children of English-born parents Edwin Arthur Sheldon, jeweller, and his second wife Phoebe Emily, née Fisher. By 1890 the family had settled in Brisbane, where Edwin ran a jewellery business at Fortitude Valley. He claimed that his ancestry could be traced to King Edward II and to a seventeenth-century lord mayor of London. In 1893 he inherited £625 from his mother.

Jeanettie studied art at Brisbane Technical College. Between 1909 and 1919 she exhibited oils, sketches and painting on porcelain at shows held by the (Royal) National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. She established herself as a prominent identity in the small, divided and struggling art community in Brisbane, and opened the Sheldon Gallery in 1921. Elected to the (Royal) Queensland Art Society, she served as vice-president (1922), secretary (1923-31 and 1937-43) and a council-member (1932-36), proving reliable and trustworthy. From 1923 to 1960 she exhibited pottery, oils and watercolours at its shows. Through the R.Q.A.S. she met the people who formed the clientele for her galleries.

After the Sheldon Gallery closed in 1923, Jeanettie held exhibitions in rented rooms before setting up the Gainsborough Gallery in 1928. She showed paintings by local and interstate artists, including Vida Lahey, (Sir) Lionel Lindsay, Gwendolyn Grant and Lloyd Rees. In 1921 she had staged Jessie Woodroffe's solo exhibition of pottery; from 1928 she displayed pottery every year, at Christmas. She promoted modern art in Brisbane to some degree, though her own work never paid homage 'at the altars of any of the false gods'. Jeanettie closed the Gainsborough Gallery in 1939, moved to Melbourne in 1944 and returned to Brisbane four years later. By 1952 she was living at Broadbeach. She died on 30 July 1974 in Southport Hospital and was buried with Catholic rites in Toowong cemetery.

Vincent was educated by the Christian Brothers at St James's School, Brisbane. He studied commercial art in the United States of America (1920) and England (1924), and worked as a freelance cartoonist in Brisbane in 1924-26. With his close friends Vincent and George Brown, he took up etching. He visited London in 1929 to learn drypoint under W. P. Robins at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, Holborn. The British Museum acquired three of his etchings, and the Victoria and Albert Museum two monotypes.

Back in Brisbane, Sheldon taught printmaking at his home at Clayfield. In 1931 he was elected a member of the Australian Painter-Etchers' Society. His drypoints of country scenes, and of Brisbane and its landmarks, were described in 1934 as being executed with 'rare skill' and 'joyous animation'. On 9 July 1934 at All Saints Church, Wickham Terrace, he married with Anglican rites Cynthia Ruth Sturtridge; they were childless. Jeanettie unflaggingly praised his work and arranged five solo exhibitions at the Gainsborough Gallery. He firmly believed in the fundamental importance of sound draughtsmanship and aesthetic beauty. His reaction to modern art was to say, 'bah!'

During World War II Sheldon worked in a munitions factory until illness forced him to resign. Survived by his wife, he died of a coronary occlusion on 19 July 1945 at Boolarong, near Caboolture, and was buried with Catholic rites in Toowong cemetery. A memorial exhibition of his work was held in Brisbane in 1948. The University of Queensland holds a collection of Sheldon's prints, donated by Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig; in 1981 Sheldon's widow gave more than two hundred of his works to the Queensland Art Gallery.

Select Bibliography

  • Australiana, Aug 1997, p 63
  • Sheldon papers (State Library of Queensland)
  • Sheldon file (Queensland Art Gallery).

Citation details

Keith Bradbury, 'Sheldon, Eliza Jeanettie (1885–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 May, 1885
Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


30 July, 1974 (aged 89)
Southport, Queensland, Australia

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