Still Life

Celebrating International Women’s Day with a special podcast with a remarkable woman talking about one of her relatives, the talented South Australian and West Australian artist Marie Tuck (1866-1947).

A work done by Marie Tuck in 1913 whilst in Paris is a stunning still life of summer fruits and is held in The Fairview Art Collection.

Margaret Muirhead was born in Adelaide in 1926. She Married Jim Muirhead, a lawyer, in 1950, and had 4 children. Jim’s work took him to Papua New Guinea, Canberra, Darwin and finally Perth.

Margaret is an author and inspiration. In this podcast she talks about her relative, Marie Tuck.


Marie Anne Tuck (1866-1947), artist, was born on 5 September 1866 at Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide hills, daughter of Edward Starkey Tuck, teacher, and his wife Amy Harriet, née Tayler, both English born. With her three sisters and three brothers, she received a liberal education at her father's school. From 1886 Marie attended James Ashton's Norwood Art School in the evenings and worked for a florist by day. Wishing to study in Paris, she began teaching at nights. In 1896 she moved to Perth where she again taught painting and worked for a florist; she saved carefully and in 1906 left for France. She altered her age, subtracting six years.

She idolized her mentor, Rupert Bunny, whose lessons she paid for by cleaning his studio, fuelling the stoves and sweeping snow from the door. Marie spent summers in Brittany, painting village life. In 1908 she sent a huge painting 'The Fish Market' to Adelaide for the 11th Federal Exhibition of the (Royal) South Australian Society of Arts; the National Gallery of South Australia bought it for 100 guineas. That year she exhibited 'Les Commères' and 'Fishwife' at the salon de la Société des Artistes Français, Paris. Her work was hung in the next four salon showings and in 1911 she received honorable mention for her 'Toilette de la Mariée', now in the Queen Adelaide Club.

After the outbreak of World War I Tuck returned home where she taught life-drawing and painting at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts. She insisted on nude models; her natural dignity and authority ensured that her request was accepted. Still frugal, she built a small live-in studio and garden at Frewville where students gathered on Saturdays to eat nasturtium-leaf sandwiches, drink mulberry wine and talk about Paris. Her 1920 exhibition was criticized by the Bulletin for including slapdash pictures, but her plein air work was praised by the Advertiser at her 1924 and 1933 exhibitions. Marie continued to teach (until 1939), to paint portraits and to execute large religious works, including those for Reims Cathedral, France.

She loved music and owned a silver-stringed spinet. At work she wore a shift, buttoned in front, with loose sleeves; on festive occasions, she chose lavish trimmings. She was barely 5 ft (153 cm) tall. Her spiky, grey hair was arranged like a Japanese doll, her face and hands were pale and freckled, her lips thin. What mattered were the eyes, faded with age to a luminous green-grey, the irises rimmed with light. A dedicated and inspiring teacher, with a sweet voice, she had many devoted students, among them Ivor Hele and John Dowie.

Although unmarried, Marie Tuck regarded brides as 'those fortunate ones'. When France fell in 1940 she had a stroke, but continued to paint, with difficulty, until her death on 3 September 1947 at Glen Osmond. Born a Methodist, she had adopted Anglicanism. Her paintings are in the art galleries of South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. At her 1971 retrospective, Dowie commented that she 'had the dancing, broken touch of a painter interested in light and atmosphere. Her palette was high-keyed and pure … she … taught us what an artist should be'.

From 1948 until his retirement in 1968 he was supervisor of youth education, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Adelaide.

Ivor Pengelly Francis (1906–1993), artist, teacher, and art critic, was born on 13 March 1906 at Uckfield, Sussex, England, eldest of three children of Ivor Francis, journeyman ironmonger, and his wife Florence Keziah Francis, née Wheatley. He was educated at Merton Court Preparatory School in Kent, followed by Woodbridge School in Suffolk.  Prior to emigrating under an assisted scheme, Ivor worked as a photographer’s apprentice. On 19 February 1924 he arrived in Adelaide and was joined by his parents and two sisters the next year. He initially worked on Eyre Peninsula as a farm hand.

To meet a pressing need for teachers in rural areas, the South Australian government advertised for trainees. Francis was given a trial at Elliston, then appointed to Marratta in 1925. The local inspector saw his potential and encouraged him to apply for the one year course speedily developed at Adelaide Teachers’ College to meet the shortage. He completed the course in 1926 and taught at a number of schools in rural South Australia until he was posted to suburban Adelaide in 1930. He continued teaching until moving into broadcasting in 1948.

From 1926 to 1940 Francis studied part time at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts where his teachers included Marie Tuck, Mary P. Harris, and Louis McCubbin. On 21 January 1931 at St Margaret’s Anglican Church, Woodville, he married Ethel Saunders (d. 1986), whom he had met while teaching at Jamestown, north of Adelaide. She became his greatest critic and supporter. They initially settled at Prospect but from 1957 lived at Crafers in the Adelaide Hills.

Sir Ivor Henry Thomas Hele (1912–1993), artist, was born on 13 June 1912 at Edwardstown, Adelaide, youngest of four children of South Australian-born parents Arthur Harold Hele, chaff-mill foreman, and his wife Ethel May, née Thomas. As a child Ivor initially studied art under James Ashton at Prince Alfred College and Ashton’s Academy of Arts, and then undertook night classes at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts (SASAC) where he was taught by Margaret Walloscheck and, later, Marie Tuck. When he was thirteen Ashton sent his work to London, where it was awarded the Princess Louise Gold Star by the Royal Drawing Society. The following year the society awarded him a bronze and a silver star.

In 1926 Hele commenced exhibiting at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA), and continued to have his work shown in the society’s spring and autumn exhibitions until 1930. By 1927 it was clear that he wanted to pursue a professional art career and he left school to study full time at the SASAC. The following year, after Tuck had helped win his parents’ consent, he travelled alone to Europe to study figure work in Paris under Louis Francois Biloul and then in Munich with Moritz Heymann.

Hele returned to Adelaide at the beginning of 1930, and set up a studio on the top floor of his parents’ house in Brown Street. From then on he was a committed studio artist, maintaining a disciplined working method and schedule that would underpin his practice for the rest of his life. Later that year he held his first solo exhibition at Argonaut Galleries; another solo exhibition at the same gallery followed the next year.

On 24 March 1932 Hele married Millicent Mary Jean Berry, a school teacher, at the Manse, Germein Street, Semaphore. The couple travelled to Europe so that Ivor could study again under his former masters, Biloul and Heymann. Returning to Adelaide, he taught life drawing part time at the SASAC. From 1933 he began again to exhibit at the RSASA, and showed his work there consistently until 1939.

By this time Hele was achieving success particularly as a portraitist and a painter of complex figure compositions, the genres for which he is best known. He was awarded the RSASA Melrose prize for portraiture in 1935, 1936 and 1939, cementing his reputation with Adelaide’s establishment. In 1936 he gained a commission to design two large relief panels for the Pioneers’ Memorial, Moseley Square, Glenelg, and also won the South Australian Centenary Art prize (for the best historical painting) for his The Reading of the Proclamation. His painting Sturt’s Reluctant Decision to Return was awarded the Sesquicentenary Commonwealth Art prize in 1938.

In 1937 Ivor and Jean moved to a former coaching inn at Aldinga on the Fleurieu Peninsula where he set up a studio that would be his workplace for the remainder of his life. Rather than travel to his subjects, those commissioning portraits came to him including Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Robert Menzies, on two occasions. His skill at taking quick likenesses in pencil or chalk, coupled with his ability to work such drawings up into fine, expressive portraits, or descriptive figure compositions, enhanced his already growing reputation. Despite the apparent ease with which he painted commissioned portraits, Hele found them exhausting to undertake, working intensely, ‘obsessed with that one thing’ until completion (Hylton 2002, 32).

Some of Hele’s finest work was produced during his years as a war artist. He enlisted on 29 June 1940 in the Australian Imperial Force, in the expectation of being appointed an official war artist. He sailed for the Middle East where, on 9 January 1941, the appointment was made and he was commissioned as a lieutenant (later captain). Back in Australia from March 1942, he had two tours in New Guinea (1943-44), the second ending when he suffered severe injuries in a motor-vehicle accident. After convalescing at home, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 5 February 1947 but continued to produce war paintings for the next three years.  His works had been shown in touring Australian War Memorial (AWM) exhibitions in 1942, 1943, and 1945.  Paintings undertaken in New Guinea show a distinct change in palette from the high-keyed pastel pinks, oranges, and greys he had favoured in North Africa to deep greens, greys, and browns reflecting the oppressive nature of the climate and landscape.

Once discharged, Hele resumed part-time teaching at the SASAC and exhibiting at the RSASA. In 1951 he was awarded the Archibald prize for his portrait of Laurie Thomas. He would go on to win the prize four more times (1953, 1954, 1955, and 1957). During this decade of success, Hele again served as a war artist; with the army rank of major, he spent much of the spring and summer of 1952 in Korea. In 1954 he was appointed OBE, gaining further recognition with his appointment as a trustee to the board of the National Gallery of South Australia (1956–69). On 21 March 1957, having divorced Jean earlier that month, he married May Elizabeth (June) Weatherly, a book-keeper, at Brougham Place Congregational Church, North Adelaide. There were no children from either marriage.

Major commissions from the AWM allowed Hele to create some of his busiest and most dramatic figure compositions, and he completed major works in 1959, 1962, 1964, and 1967. The first monograph on the artist was published in 1966. In 1969 he was appointed CBE, and he was knighted in 1982. The AWM published another book on his life and art in 1984, and he completed his last portrait commission, that of former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, in the same year.

Hele’s work was distinguished by an exceptional talent for figure work. He believed strong drafting abilities were the foundation of any form of artistic endeavour and that ‘only your own hard work teaches you anything of value in the end’ (Age 1962, 18). Never an artist to experiment widely, it suited his working methods to stay largely with portraiture, nudes, and figure compositions. The landscapes surrounding his Aldinga home were also the basis for many paintings, revealing a more personal side of the artist’s work, a counterpoint to the formal portraits and the confronting subject matter of his war output. His topographically accurate beach and cliff scenes often incorporate athletic figures on horseback dashing through the waves, women and healthy young children frolicking in the surf or fishermen hauling on nets, and reflect his almost daily visits to the beach. He admired strength, beauty, robustness, and vigour, and sought throughout his life to energise his works with these human characteristics.

Survived by his wife, Hele died on 1 December 1993 at Bedford Park and was cremated. The AWM recognised his work with a touring exhibition and book. In 2002 another monograph on the artist was published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide, to accompany an exhibition at Carrick Hill. In addition to his prodigious output of artworks, his legacy can be found in the South Australian artists that he trained in life drawing, including Jacqueline Hick, Jeffrey Smart, David Dallwitz, John Dowie, Marjorie Hann, Hugo Shaw, Mary Shedley, and Geoff Wilson.

John Dowie: A Life in the Round Page 11 and 12

John Stuart Dowie is best known for his sculptures but is also widely known as an artist.

One of four children, he was born in Prospect, Adelaide in South Australia, and from the age of two, lived the rest of his life in the family home in Dulwich, in Burnside, Adelaide.

Dowie attended the Rose Park Primary School, where his aptitude for drawing became apparent at an early age. In 1925, Dowie began attending the South Australian School of Art in Adelaide, where he was taught modelling under the sculptor Robert Craig.

His art teachers included Jessamine Buxton, Leslie Wilkie, Margaret Walloscheck, Marie Tuck and Ivor Hele.

John began holding exhibitions in 1933 at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, which continued until 1969. His work was exhibited during the war, in 1941 and 1944, despite him not living in Adelaide at the time.

In 1936, he enrolled in the University of Adelaide in the discipline of architecture, simultaneously being employed by Hubert Cowell & Co. as a draughtsman. John continued to attend night classes at the School of Art, until June 1940, when he enlisted in the 2/43 Battalion of the Australian Infantry Forces. Dowie was one of the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ the garrison who maintained the Siege of Tobruk, a port in Libya, against the Afrika Corps (aka the German Africa Corps) between April and November 1941