The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists

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Resting Diana 1931
Painting, oil on canvas
76.5 h x 51.5 w cm
Purchased 1977
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Dorothy Thornhill

10 August 1978

James Gleeson: I’d like to see that. Well, Dorothy, from that can we go to what I consider to be one of your important oils, and this painting of Diana resting.

Dorothy Thornhill: Ah yes. Yes, well, this is much earlier.

James Gleeson: Yes.

Dorothy Thornhill: Yes. This is about ’32 at the latest, I think. Yes. That was painted in the life class.

James Gleeson: At tech?

Dorothy Thornhill: At tech, yes. The model standing. Horrible set up. One of those dreadful high stools, you know.

James Gleeson: Yes, yes.

Dorothy Thornhill: And nothing but nothing behind. So I selected the lounge of the thing as it came that I felt could be used and set to work to resolve what I felt were rather unharmonious relationships by extending into, well, it really is pattern–isn’t it?–of the surround. When we first arrived in Sydney–this was not so much later–I was fascinated by the fig tree growth. This was an opportunity to use both the cylindrical and the angular forms, which I thought married with the figure reasonably well.

James Gleeson: Well, it certainly does give a great unity, the rhythms and the forms seem to come together in a very unified way.

Dorothy Thornhill: It was shockingly unpopular.

James Gleeson: Was it really?

Dorothy Thornhill: It was shockingly unpopular.

James Gleeson: Isn’t that strange?

Dorothy Thornhill: It was, I think, shown in the Society of Artists but it caused great disgust and annoyance.

James Gleeson: Can you think why that would be? Was it too modern for them at that time?

Dorothy Thornhill: Yes, yes. You would have to think back if you can to the situation.

James Gleeson: In 1932.

Dorothy Thornhill: In the thirties, yes. Well, when the gallery purchased the Pissarro some years later there was an absolute outcry about this modern art.

James Gleeson: That’s true.

Dorothy Thornhill: So you can imagine how well that didn’t go down. Yes.

James Gleeson: You didn’t show it again until your—

Dorothy Thornhill: Actually, I think when I went over to London, it was one of the things I took with me to get entry to the Academy School. I think I entered it for the exhibition and it was accepted and not hung, which is a very good arrangement they have there. I can see it would have been awkward to hang there with the usual nature of things that were hanging in those days. However, I think that’s enough about that, isn’t it?


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