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Portia Geach Memorial Award

Portia Geach Memorial Award

The Portia Geach Memorial Award is Australia’s most prestigious art prize for portraiture by women artists.

The Award was established by the will of the late Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister, Portia Geach. The non-acquisitive prize is awarded by the Trustee for the entry which is of the highest artistic merit, ‘…for the best portrait painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the close date for entries.’

Portia Geach Memorial Award winners

2019 – Sally Robinson, Body in a box (self portrait)

2018 – Zoe Young – Drawing storyboards (Bruce Beresford)

2017 – Amanda Davies – Pat Brassington

2016 – Jenny Rodgerson, Bound by the big red coat

2015 – Natasha Bieniek, Sahara (self portrait)

2014 – Sophie Cape, Romper stomper

2013 – Helene Grove, Self portrait getting on

2012 – Sally Robinson, The artist’s mother

2011 – Kate Stevens, Indian dream

2010 – Prudence Flint, Scrambled egg

2009 – Christine Hiller, The Old Painter

2008 – Jude Rae, Self Portrait 2008 (The Year My Husband Left)

2007 – Maryanne Coutts, Melbourne

2006 – Lucy Culliton, Self with Friends

2005 – Jude Rae, Large Interior (Micky Allan)

2004 – Nerissa Lea, The Sheik & Me, Self Portrait with Imagined Portrait of Chad Morgan after Frida Kahlo

2003 – Wendy SharpeSelf Portrait with Tea Cup and Burning Paintings

2002 – Vicki Varvaressos, Self Portrait with Painting

2001 – Mary Moore, At Home

2000 – Nancy BorlaseThe Sisters: Marie and Vida Breckenridge

1999 – Kim Spooner, Social Currency (Eva Cox)

1998 – Anita Rezevska, Self Portrait – Woman from Riga

1997 – Maria Isabel, Cruz Maria

1996 – Su Baker, Self Portrait at Six Paces

1995 – Wendy SharpeSelf Portrait with Students, After Adelaide Labille-Guiard

1994 – Jenny SagesAnn Thomson

1993 – Aileen Rogers, Suzanne Mourot

1992 – Jenny Sages,Nancy Borlase and Laurie Short

1991 – Rosemary Valadon, Frances Joseph

1990 – Jenny Watson, Self Portrait

1989 – Jenny Sands, Alex Karpin

1988 – Margaret Ackland, Shay Docking

1987 – Christine Hiller, Self Portrait

1986 – Christine Hiller, Self Portrait

1985 – Gwen Eichler, Dianne Fogwell

1984 – Margaret Woodward, Madeleine Halliday

1983 – Margaret Woodward, Self Portrait

1982 – Brenda Humble, Virginia Hall

1981 – Susan Howard, Jenny Kee

1980 – Judy Pennefather, Venie Schulenberg

1979 – Ivy ShoreKondelea (Della) Elliott

1978 – Dora Toovey, Senator Neville Bonner

1977 – Ena Joyce, George Lawrence

1976 – Jocelyn Maughan, George Bouckley

1975 – Mary Brady, Elizabeth Rooney

1974 – Lesley H Pockley, Hugh Paget

1973 – Sylvia Tiarks, Self Portrait

1972 – Elisabeth Cummings, Jean Appleton

1971 – Mary Brady, Larry Sitsky

1970 – Dora Toovey, Self Portrait in Landscape

1969 – Vaike Liibus, Guy Warren

1968 – Bettina McMahon, Self Portrait

1967 – Jo Caddy, Laurence Davis

1966 – Mary Brady, Grahame Edgar

1965 – Jean Appleton, Self Portrait

ABOUT PORTIA GEACH

The Portia Geach Memorial Award was established by the bequest of (Florence) Kate Geach to honour her sister, artist Portia Geach who died in October 1959. Born in Melbourne in 1873, Portia Geach studied design and painting at the National Gallery School, Melbourne from 1893 to 1896 winning a prize for her nude painting. In 1896 she won the first travelling scholarship awarded to an Australian to study at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where she remained for four years. She seemed destined for a sucessful artistic career.

Around 1900, she returned to Melbourne and began experimenting with her art. She eventually focused on figure studies, portraits and atmospheric landscapes. The family moved to Sydney around 1904 settling in Cremorne Point. She painted murals for buildings in New York in 1917, and in 1926 was exhibiting at the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She continued to travel widely, visiting New Guinea, Noumea, Tahiti and New Zealand and belonged to the Women’s Club, Sydney, and the Lyceum Club, Melbourne.

Disillusioned by the lack of support from the male dominated art world Portia directed her energies fighting for the rights of women in Australia and painting a banner for the suffrage movement in 1905. She founded and was president of the New South Wales Housewives’ Association. In 1928 she reorganised the association as the Housewives’ Progressive Association. For many years she was also president of the Federated Association of Australian Housewives. In the Sydney Morning Herald and over the radio she frequently expressed her views on such subjects as buying Empire goods, the use of preservatives in foodstuffs, the date-stamping of eggs, the marking of lamb and the high price of milk and bread. Armed with a strong personality, she campaigned against the closed front that she claimed had faced her when she had tried to exhibit her paintings.

Sometimes referred to as the female Archibald Prize, the Portia Geach Memorial Memorial Award is given annually “… for the best portraits painted from life of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters or the Sciences by any female artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the closing date for entries”. The Portia Geach Memorial Award seems an appropriate legacy and ensures that, over fifty years after her death, women artists in Australia are encouraged and supported in their endeavours.

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Portia Geach Memorial Award Newsletter