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Edith Lilla Holmes

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Edith Holmes

Awarded for service to the Arts

Born: 1893

Died: 1973

Entered on roll: 2005


Edith Holmes’ father was a schoolteacher and her early years were spent in Hamilton, Devonport and Scottsdale, before the family settled at Dilkhoosha in Moonah, which remained Edith’s home until her death. She studied art at the Hobart Technical College under Lucien Dechaineux (1918-19 and 1922-24) and under Mildred Lovett in (1925-26, 1928-31 and 1935). From 1930-31, Edith attended Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School.

During the 1930s, Edith shared a studio in Collins Street, in Hobart, with Mildred Lovett, Florence Rodway, Dorothy Stoner, Ethel Nicholls and Violet Vimpany. She travelled regularly to Melbourne, where she held seven exhibitions between 1938 and 1951. She loved painting portraits and her natural surroundings, including views from her Moonah home and from her shack at Carlton. She entered the Archibald Prize several times and her landscapes were hung in the Wynne Landscape Exhibition.

Edith’s work is characterised by highly expressive colours and her use of the Tasmanian landscape and urban environment as subject matter. From the beginning, she found that her work was favourably received by interstate critics. However, early in her career her ‘modern outlook’ was not well received in Hobart. In 1967, she observed that ‘Tasmanian women painters are not being recognised in the same way that women painters in other states are … we just don’t have the professional critics that Melbourne and Sydney have”.

Edith exhibited annually from 1927 to 1972 with the Art Society of Tasmania. She was a member of the Art Society Council for 22 years and was subsequently made a Life Member. A founding member of the Tasmanian Group of Painters, she exhibited with them for 30 years. She travelled to England and France in 1958, 1960 and 1971, holding an exhibition in Tasmania House, in London, in 1958.

In 1954, she won a prize in an art competition to mark Hobart’s sesquicentenary. In 1972, the Contemporary Art Society awarded her a prize for her contribution to Tasmanian art.

Edith was active in the Victoria League, the English Speaking Union and the Women’s Non-Party League of Tasmania and was a Life Member of the United Nations Association. In 1973, Edith donated land at Bally Park, near Carlton, to the Moonah Rotary Club to build a holiday home for disadvantaged children.

Edith died in 1973 and was buried at Forcett. Her work is represented in collections at the Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the Devonport Gallery and in many private collections. In 2003, the Moonah Arts Centre held an exhibition to celebrate Edith’s career using works loaned from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the Devonport Gallery and private collections.

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