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Magpie vase Theme: Cities & Suburbs

Artist: Jessie SIMPSON
Birth/Death: 1883–1965

Title: Magpie vase

Credit Line: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Jessie Simpson’s painted ceramics celebrated Australian nature subjects, popularising the idea of the Bush in the comfort of the suburbs. In this vase, she places the image of that quintessential suburban companion, the white-backed magpie (found south of the River Murray and in South Australia and Tasmania), within a decorative frieze. Its Egyptian theme reflects the awareness of and interest in the Middle East that grew from Australian involvement in the region during the First World War, with many soldiers sending Egyptian souvenirs back home to family and friends. Decorative motifs based on a fascination for Egyptian antiquity were found on many household items at this time, however this vase is remarkable for its dramatic quality rarely found in china painting. Simpson achieved this rich jewel-like effect by painting a frieze with a mosaic-like background in colours of blue and carnelian set against gold.

Jessie Simpson started painting china before the First World War and exhibited her decorated porcelain in 1924 with the paintings of her uncle the artist Tom Roberts. However, like many women of her generation she ceased painting after her marriage.

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