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The Meldrumites

Clarice Beckett | Bathing boxes

Clarice Beckett, Australia 1887-1935 | Bathing boxes c.1932 | Oil on canvas on composition board | Gift of Mrs I.A. Sheen 1988 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Currently on display | Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries | Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)

Max Meldrum (1875–1955) exerted an important influence on Australian painting in the early twentieth century. Born in Edinburgh, Meldrum migrated to Melbourne in 1889, and studied at the National Gallery of Victoria School from 1892 to 1899. Under the tutelage of Bernard Hall, Meldrum developed a tonal style of painting that paid homage to European masters such as Velázquez and Corot, as well as American-born James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Winning the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship in 1899, he went to Paris to explore firsthand the work of these great artists. Meldrum lived in France for over a decade and developed his own form of tonal realism, rendering objects through light and shade, and focusing on a limited range of motifs, including interiors, still lifes and portraits.

On his return to Melbourne in 1911, Meldrum circulated his theories and attracted a dedicated group of followers. Maintaining that he did not endeavour to teach his pupils how or what to paint, Meldrum encouraged them to scrutinise and define their own visual impressions, and to reproduce these faithfully. As a result, his students’ paintings display a range of stylistic approaches. Consisting of both young and established artists, his followers became known as ‘Meldrumites’.

Collection Highlights

Clarice Beckett Bathing boxes c.1932

In 1919, Clarice Beckett moved to Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Beaumaris and the area often featured in her work from this time. Bathing boxes was painted a few kilometres from the artist’s home. The relationship she establishes between colour, composition and tone clearly denotes her as an adherent of Max Meldrum’s teaching. However, her work does diverge from his tenets. Here, Beckett’s concentration is on the scene’s atmospheric effects – an approach Meldrum discouraged.

Of Interest 

The Queensland Art Gallery houses a significant collection of Australian paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. Find more information on these selected Collection highlights | Indigenous Australian Art | Queensland Heritage | Australian Art to 1975 

Search the Queensland Art Gallery's Collection online for works by Max Meldrum, Ad Colquhoun, Polly Hurry, Clarice Beckett, AME Bale, Kenneth Macqueen and Hilda Rix Nicholas | Collection Search