On Australia Day 1983, a statue was unveiled in Gunnedah to commemorate Dorothea Mackellar. It is fitting that the statue in ANZAC Park in Gunnedah, depicting her as the young woman who wrote My Country, is gazing in the direction of her beloved ‘Kurrumbede’.
When the long awaited and much lauded statue of a young Dorothea was unveiled the fact that the figure of Dorothea was in fibreglass, and that she was sitting on the statue base rather than on horseback, did nothing to dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic crowd which had gathered to witness the history making event.
Fundraising for the memorial had been an intensive three year experience for Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society founder Mikie Maas and the enthusiastic band of supporters from the Gunnedah Tourist Activities Committee. Enlisting the support of publications such as Women’s Weekly and Bulletin magazines, and gaining airplay with the ABC (among others), the Committee received donations from 70c to $100. NSW school children also supported the project with cake stalls and donations – all in all 90% of the $28,000 required came from outside of Gunnedah.
With funds raised Dennis Adams, a well known sculptor, was commissioned to create the memorial. A design showing Dorothea sitting side saddle and gazing serenely into the distance, was soon approved. Aiming at completion in time for Australia Day celebrations, Dennis commenced work with a very tight schedule to keep.
Supporters were delighted in September 1983 to see the finished statue to be craned into place – completing the visionary work begun over three years previously. The memorial truly honours the patriotic poet who, in My Country, immortalised both the spirit of the people, and the physicality of the land, which comprise the nation of Australia.
The statue and surrounds received a major upgrade in 2013, sponsored by BHP Billiton. New landscaping including visitor seating surround the memorial.
In the New Year’s Day Honours of 1968, Dorothea Mackellar was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968 for her contribution to Australian literature. A federal electorate covering half of Sydney’s northern beaches and a street in the Canberra suburb of Cook are named in her honour.
At the same time as the statue was unveiled a series of watercolour paintings depicting the various scenes of My Country were unveiled.
My Country Series by Jean Isherwood
These 32 watercolour paintings are on semi-permanent display in the Creative Arts Centre, Gunnedah.
Jean Isherwood (1911 – 2006)
Isherwood was born in Marrickville, Sydney in 1911. At the age of fourteen she won a scholarship to the National Art School at East Sydney Technical College (now an Institute of Technical and Further Education).
In the dramatic architectural surroundings which had previously comprised Darlinghurst Gaol, Isherwood learned an appreciation of linear perspective and accurate draughtsmanship which she later applied with great skill to her rural landscapes.
In 1929 she commenced work as a fashion artist with an advertising agency, continuing her studies for a further five years at the National Art School and Royal Art Society as an evening student. She later worked as a freelance artist and illustrator.
Isherwood’s first exhibited work with the Australian Watercolour Institute in 1934 was a small painting of a building site. From that time she became a frequent exhibitor in major art exhibitions. She was a student of Antonio Dattilo Rubbo.
She became part of Sydney Bohemian art scene, and met John Dabron whom she married in 1940. They moved to Springwood in the Blue Mountains and had two children, Josephine and Jacqueline. They divorced in 1948.
After the divorce, she returned to fashion drawing and illustration to support herself, pursuing her art interests, as she had before, on the weekend. She took up full-time painting in 1952.
From 1961 to 1974, Isherwood taught at the National Art School. This was a period of conflicting views in the teaching of art in Sydney, a time when a disciplinary approach to the skills of perspective, anatomy and design was considered by many of both the teachers and students alike as passé and unnecessary to the creation of works of art, the stylistic vogue being Abstract Expressionism.
Jean Isherwood was one of the several teachers who determinedly maintained the opposite position. An exacting teacher, she stalked her perspective drawing students with a kneadable putty eraser in hand, challenging their skills with arrangements of battered metal rubbish bins, piles of broken chairs and, on rainy days, a dripping sixteen-rib umbrella.
It was said of Miss Isherwood that no student escaped her class without being able to draw parallel lines and precise ellipses, freehand.
In 1959 Isherwood travelled around New South Wales by car. From that time onwards, she became primarily a landscape painter, and, through her attachment to the countryside, a major exhibitor in the art competitions held in conjunction with the shows run by the local Agricultural Societies and culminating each year in the Sydney Royal Easter Show with its exhibition attracting hundreds of entrants.
From 1950 until her death Isherwood won more than 100 first prizes in various art competitions.
SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Jean_Isherwood