The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Douglas Dundas

10 August 1978

Douglas Dundas: All right. Travelling scholarship came on and I worked hard for it. I found the other day that the judges–I knew at the time that Lambert was one of the judges, but the others were Bernard Hall and somebody else. I didn't know that at the time. He came over from Melbourne apparently to judge it.

James Gleeson: Bernard Hall?

Douglas Dundas: Yes. When Gibbons told me, you know, he quoted my non-de-plume and said: are you so and so? I said, ‘Yes'. He said, ‘Congratulations; you've won the travelling scholarship'. I just felt as though the floor had opened up and swallowed me because this was the end of everything that I knew and I'd be entering a new world. But I went overseas on a cargo ship, the Fordsdale, one of the Commonwealth Line. There were four other passengers. It took, I think, eight weeks before we got to Hull.

James Gleeson: This was in 1927?

Douglas Dundas: Nineteen twenty-seven. I disembarked at Hull and came down to London. Fizelle at that time had preceded me by several weeks and he and Eldershaw and d'Auvergne Boxall had gone off to Scotland on a sketching trip. I landed there, not knowing where I was to go but I had a letter from a girl who used to work at Farmers who had gone back to London with her parents, and she invited me to come and see them down in Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean. So I had a fortnight's painting down there before I came back to London. Then I think Fizelle, having come back, we went to Paris until the school started in October. I studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic on the advice of Syd Long, of all people. I had two or three very good teachers there. One was Harry Watson, RWS, and William Matthews who I got on very well with and another painter, or animal draftsman, named Tresilian. I stayed there for two terms and then took off for Italy. Having met Norman Lloyd in Paris, we decided to go to Italy together. He went ahead of me, actually, and I met him in Venice and from then on sort of round Venice, Florence and so on.

James Gleeson: Would this be the summer of ‘28?

Douglas Dundas: Twenty-eight. It was then that I discovered San Gimignano.

Dorothy: (inaudible) a life-long love affair.

James Gleeson: It comes as quite a shock, doesn't it?

Douglas Dundas: Yes. William Matthews at the Regent Street Polytechnic had lent me a book by Maurice Hewlett on The Road in Tuscany. It was illustrated by Joseph Pennell with very exaggerated hills going up like this, you know–lovely book. That fired me with enthusiasm for San Gimignano. I settled in there–Norman Lloyd too–for several weeks and I painted hard. You know, after working all day and studying at night, to get the opportunity to work in the school day and night. I met Jimmy Cook while I was there. At least he was living in the same digs as I was, and so was d'Auvergne Boxall. It was sort of Australian dominions club. So I made a life long friend in Jimmy. He used to come with me at night to Regent Street and we'd draw. Indeed, I had Jimmy pointed out to me by one of the teachers as a sort of shining example of what I was to do. He was very competent.

James Gleeson: How long were you in Italy on that occasion?

Douglas Dundas: I think nearly six months.

James Gleeson: You were working in oils and watercolours and drawing?

Douglas Dundas: Oils and more drawing. Mostly oils, and drawings. Then I went back to Paris for the winter and got a studio in the same building as Norman Lloyd out at Puteaux and worked there till it was time one could get out to landscape again and went back to Italy.

Dorothy: That's where the portrait was done.

Douglas Dundas: Mm.

James Gleeson: The portrait? Oh, the one that was in the Macquarie Gallery exhibition.

Douglas Dundas: Yes.

James Gleeson: That was painted in Italy?

Douglas Dundas: No, it was in Paris.

Dorothy: In Paris.

James Gleeson: At the Studio Puteaux?

Douglas Dundas: Mm. I had a studio which belonged to a dancer and she had these two great big mirrors on either side of the room. So I used the mirrors.


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