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Curzona (Lily) Allport was born in Tasmania on 18 July 1860. She received her first art lessons from her grandmother, Mary Morton Allport, now acknowledged as the first professional female artist in the Australian colonies.
At the age of 28 Lily embarked for England and Europe, as did many Australian artists at that time. She went with her mother and sister, determined to be employed ‘as she thinks fit, and to be devoted to some talent’. With the financial support of her brothers in the initial stages, she lived and travelled in England and Europe in the periods 1888-1922 and 1927-31. She studied in London, Paris and Rome and was an instructor at the London School of Photo Engraving and Lithography for 20 years.
She never married. She was a prolific and versatile artist working with oils, watercolour, pastels, and relief prints. In 1824 The Mercury stated Miss Allport was ‘the first Tasmanian to gain the distinction of having works hung in the Royal Academy’. She also exhibited at the British Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, the Goupil Gallery, the London Salon, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Ridley Art Club, London.
Lily contributed to the tradition of Arcadian art. She depicted street scenes with old buildings and few people, suggestive of an unhurried pace of life, grand ruins set in garden panoramas, cherubs and vibrant marketplaces. She depicted young girls and women.
She finally settled in Hobart. At the age of 75 she established a printing press, inserting a notice in the newspaper that she was ‘unable to see friends and visitors until further notice’ due to a studio move and the demands of work. She continued to exhibit her work, and for 3 years opened her studio at 53 Collins Street to the public on Friday afternoons. She created a series of Tasmanian landscapes that capture the space, light, vegetation and colour of Australia. Her work bridges both cultures.
The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts has some 400 items of her work. 228 of these can be seen on the Library website. They are well worth a look on the Tasmanian State library web site. Select Tasmanian Images - click on ‘creator’ - click on ‘A’ - scroll down to ‘ Allport, Curzona Frances Louise’. You should see 228 image and you will be amazed.
Sandra Hodgson and Joan Kerr in Heritage: the National Women’s Art Book (1995);
The Arcadian Vision of Lily Allport: an exhibition of prints from the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania Curator Jane Bovill (1999).