Important Australian + International Fine Art
4 May 2016


(1905 – 1999)

oil on canvas

70.0 x 94.0 cm

signed lower right: SHEILA HAWKINS
inscribed on label verso: No. 1 / Oil / CATALAN MARKET / SHEILA HAWKINS / 35 HAYMARKET 8WI

$30,000 – 40,000
Sold for $46,360 (inc. BP) in Auction 42 - 4 May 2016, Melbourne

Paisnel Gallery, London, acquired from the artist c.1990
Private collection, Tasmania, acquired from the above, 1990s


Goupil Gallery Salon, 33rd exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London, July 1939, cat. 323

Catalogue text

In 1939 Sheila Hawkins exhibited Catalan Market and Gypsy Mother at the Goupil Gallery Salon. During the war Hawkins became interested in activities that received little or no official recognition, yet were a vital part of the war on the home front. Possibly through Jimmy Cook, she learned of the stationing of Australian soldiers working in forestry units in Scotland supplying timber to the war zones. The Australian Forestry Company had originally expected to be sent to France, but by the time they arrived France was occupied by German forces. Much to their frustration, they found themselves felling trees in Britain instead and in the meantime were still expected to continue with regular military training. In 1941 Sheila Hawkins took two weeks’ leave from her RAAF work in London, to witness and document their experiences. In later correspondence with the Australian War Memorial, she writes admiringly of these men: ‘...there was no way to suggest the amazing precision and perfection of every movement – the speed with which everything was started and finished before I could catch enough of the action.’

The following year found her recording RAF squadron records, at the time under conditions of tight security, in Wales. Back in London she completed four portraits of RAAF members, c.1942. Examples of this work are now held in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Around this period her drawings also record the life of women operating the coal barges on London canals. Some of these compositions were worked up into murals she painted for the Force’s canteens in London.

With the breakdown of her marriage during the war and a newly born daughter to raise, she continued working throughout this period on a series of illustrated books for children, notably with a commission to work with five other artists producing the first series of Penguin Puffin children’s books at Cowells, the printers in Ipswich. Despite her long absence she continued to find inspiration in her memories of Australia. Little Grey Colo, the story of a koala, appeared in 1939, and Animals of Australia in 1944. Once war was over she returned to a studio in Hampstead where she remembers she had used a number of old paintings tacked up against the windows as black out. In 1946 she became a founder member of the Hampstead Artist’s Council, set up by Richard Carline and fellow artist, Fred Uhlman. Her feisty personality led to a clash with publishers Angus & Robertson over her Australian Animals and Birds project. With all the associated problems involved in illustrating and selling her work, Hawkins made a return visit to Australia. She settled at Darling Point in Sydney, staying there for about three years. In 1949 she worked on murals for the refurnishing of the troopship M.V Manoora, which was being converted into a passenger ship. Back in the UK by 1951, a collection of her animal illustrative work was shown at the Geffrye Museum in London. She took on a number of further commissions illustrating the works of other authors, but by the mid- 1960s decided to concentrate on her painting once more. She went on to exhibit regularly as a member of the Free Painters and Sculptors group and the Ridley Society, another group of London artists.

We are grateful to Emma Hicks, London for her assistance with this essay


Kerr, J. (ed.), Heritage: The National Women’s Art Book, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995
Muir, M., Sheila Hawkins: Profile of an Illustrator, M. Muir, Adelaide, 1998
The Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, Studio International, London, 1939, vol. 118
Sheila Hawkins Obituary, The Times, London, England, 6 February 1999, p. 24
Dear, W., ‘A child of the animal world’ in ‘Guardian Obituaries’, The Guardian, London, 30 January 1999, viewed 20 February 2016,
Design & Art Australia Online, viewed 20 February 2016
Wootton, D., ‘Obituary: Sheila Hawkins’ in ‘Culture’, The Independent, London, 22 February 1999, viewed 20 February 2016,
‘History of the HAC’, Hampstead Artists Council, London, viewed 20 February 2016,
Conversations with the artist’s daughter, Anna de Polnay, London
Sheila Hawkins Archives, Victoria and Albert Museum, London