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Photograph of Mildred as a child supplied by Paul Matthews, descendant
Mildred, the eldest of four children, was born to Edward and Alice Lovett on 13 September 1880 in Hobart.
After attending Mrs H. Barnard’s Ladies School from 1887-1893 she went to work as a photographic retoucher at McGuffie’s ‘Alba Studio’ in Hobart. This was one of the few jobs available in the late nineteenth century for talented school leavers.
Having left McGuffie’s in 1896 she enrolled at the Hobart Technical College and studied painting, modelling, life-drawing and china painting under Benjamin Sheppard and Ethel Nicholls.
In 1898-99 she studied for six months at Julian Ashton’s Art School, one of the foremost independent art schools in Sydney in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Julian Ashton was to become a wonderful mentor for Mildred and in 1909 wrote of his former pupil:
The object of this sketch is a young Tasmanian who, amongst other gifts, has developed the art of painting on china to a degree that, as far as I know, is superior to anything we have seen in the Commonwealth.1
In 1902 Mildred began establishing herself as a professional artist, working at a time when it was extremely difficult for a young woman to establish herself as a visual artist. She gained a number of small portrait commissions during that year. By 1906 she was teaching modelling and life-drawing at the Hobart Technical College. Lucien Dechaineux, head of the Art Department of the Hobart Technical College was another of Mildred’s mentors and encouraged her to start china painting classes at the College. By 1909 Mildred had moved to Sydney and in 1910 began teaching at Ashton’s.
Mildred married Stanley Paterson in 1913 and became the family’s major breadwinner for the 40 years of their marriage, supplementing her teaching wage with the sale of her work. Mildred and Stanley had no children.
In 1919 Mildred returned to Hobart and opened her own studio in 1921 whilst also supervising the Hobart Technical College evening students. By 1925 she had been appointed art instructor at the College, with future students including Edith Holmes and Dorothy Stoner.
Mildred was to remain a key figure in the Hobart art scene until 1939 and was a council member of the Art Society of Tasmania. Highlights of her career include being chosen to represent Tasmania in the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1924 and being part of the 1926-27 ‘Group of Modern Painters’ founded by George Lambert who exhibited in Sydney.
Whilst on a study tour of Europe in 1929 she enrolled at the Westminster School of Art, London, and at the Academie Lhote in Paris.
As an artist Mildred was somewhat of an all-rounder being highly proficient in oil, water and pastel painting, sculpture and miniatures. A full length portrait of her mentor, Julian Ashton, can be found in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as can a portrait of her former student, Edith Holmes. However, it was her china painting that brought her most critical acclaim. She was described by the Lone Hand publication in 1913 as being “…amongst the three or four great Australian painters on china”. A vase painted by Mildred, which now resides in the Art Gallery of NSW, is regarded as one of the key works of decorative art in the art nouveau style in Australia.
Mildred retired from the Hobart Technical College in 1940 and returned to Sydney with Stanley where they lived until his death in 1952. She returned to Hobart in 1953 following Stanley’s death, living in Sandy Bay until she died in 1955 at the age of 75.
Australian Dictionary of Biography: Volume 10, 1891-1939, Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp. 157-158.
Mildred Lovett, 1880-1955: a survey / curated by Jonathan Holmes and Elizabeth Lada, Hobart: University of Tasmania, 1989.
Online images of her work can be viewed at:
Edward Lodewyk Crowther MD
by Mildred Lovett
Location: W.L. Crowther Library, Hobart