Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mary Stoddard (1852–1901)

by Margaret Caldwell

This article was published:

Mary Stoddard (1852?-1901), artist, was born probably in Edinburgh, daughter of Peter Devine, portraitist and later a photographer, and his wife Catherine, née Rae. Mary and her sisters Katie and Eliza studied drawing and painting with their father and exhibited landscape and figure studies with the Royal Scottish Academy. On 17 December 1875 in Edinburgh she married with Episcopal forms Frederick Wahab Stoddard, a medical student. About three years later they went to New Zealand to farm, but by 1880 had moved to Sydney where Frederick secured employment in 1886 as a clerk at £299 a year in the Colonial Secretary's Office.

Soon after arriving in Australia Mary Stoddard joined the Art Society of New South Wales and entered two pictures in its 1880 exhibition. Thereafter she regularly exhibited portraits (many painted on commission), some still life paintings and a few seascapes (priced from five guineas to £120). To supplement her income, she taught painting and drawing. She won many competitions, including that for a Christmas card 'of distinctly Australian character' for John Sands (1881), the design for the 20s. postage stamp (1888), the Hunters Hill prize at the Exhibition of Women's Industries (1888) and 100 guineas for the best design for the Melbourne exhibition award.

Working in oils and water-colour, she painted portraits and miniatures of prominent people, among them Sir Henry Parkes (1891 and 1896), E. C. Merewether (now in the Australian Club), J. T. Toohey, the wives of Governors Carrington and Hampden, and members of such Sydney families as the Burdekins and Merivales. Her work was also seen in a coloured Christmas supplement to the Illustrated Sydney News in 1886. The National Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased her still life, 'From Earth and Ocean', in 1889 and included it in the 1898 Exhibition of Australian Art at the Grafton Galleries, London.

There was much favourable comment on her nude study, 'Lorelei', in the Art Society's 1888 exhibition; her 'style was careful and delicately finished and always sympathetic in quality of interpretation'. In May 1891 the Illustrated Sydney News praised her for combining 'the qualities of the artist, the woman and the mother' and saw her as 'a brilliant encouragement to her own sex'. Supporting his wife's endeavours, Frederick joined the Art Society and attended its various functions; Mary was a council-member in 1894-1900. She taught her daughters painting and drawing, and they also exhibited with the Art Society.

Mary's wish to return to London—to benefit her health and to further her children's education—was finally fulfilled in 1900. Survived by her husband, three daughters and a son, she died on 10 June 1901 at Kensington, London, after an operation to relieve an intestinal obstruction. Her daughter Florence Enid became a successful miniaturist whose work was hung by the Royal Academy of Arts.

Select Bibliography

  • Bulletin, 19 June 1886, 1 Sept 1900
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 28 Nov 1889, 9 May 1891
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 3 Aug 1901
  • Cosmos Magazine, 30 Apr 1896
  • Australasian Art Review, Aug and Dec 1899
  • Art Society of New South Wales, Australian Magazine, Sept 1899
  • Art Society of New South Wales, Annual Report, 1881-1902 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes correspondence (State Library of New South Wales)
  • J. Plummer, album of newsclippings and G. V. Thompson, newsclippings, 1881-1901 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Margaret Caldwell, 'Stoddard, Mary (1852–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Devine, Mary

Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


10 June, 1901 (aged ~ 49)
London, Middlesex, England

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