Works from the Estate of The Lady Casey, Melbourne LOTS 1 - 9

Ethel Marian Sumner (Maie) Casey was born in Brunswick in 1891, the daughter of the Victorian surgeon (Sir) Charles Snodgrass Ryan and his wife Alice Elfrida. Her family were a part of Melbourne’s extraordinary artistic, literary and professional milieu of the late Victorian era including her intrepid aunt and botanical artist, Marion Ellis Rowan and her father’s cousin, Janet, Lady Clarke. An accomplished artist and writer herself, Maie shared a studio with her life-long friend, Joan à Beckett Lindsay after she had returned to Melbourne in 1910, having completed her formal education in London and Paris. In 1924 the two young women held their first joint exhibition, which was opened by their friend, Dame Nellie Melba. Both women were also renowned writers and collaborated on Early Melbourne Architecture 1840–1888, which was published in 1953. They would hold their last joint exhibition at McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin in 1972.

On 24 June 1926, Maie married family friend Richard Gavin Gardiner (Baron) Casey at St James’s parish church, Westminster. They returned to Melbourne in 1931 and Richard was elected federal member for Corio in the House of Representatives. During their visit to England for the coronation of King George VI they both learnt to fly and gained their pilot’s licences. They laid an airstrip at their property in Berwick and would often fly between Berwick and Canberra for Richard’s parliamentary duties as treasurer (1935). At this time they purchased a town house in Gipps Street East Melbourne, which had originally been the home of the eminent colonial artist Eugene von Guérard. Although Maie lived in this home until her death in 1983, Richard’s political and diplomatic career took her far and wide. In 1940 Casey was sent to the United States as Australia’s first diplomatic representative. In Washington, Maie generously promoted Australian culture by furnishing the residence with fabrics by Frances Burke and installing paintings by Rupert Bunny and her former student friends from the George Bell School, (Sir) Russell Drysdale and Peter Purves Smith. Richard enjoyed diplomatic posts across the globe and was a British member of State in Cairo (1942), governor of Bengal (1944–45) and Australia’s sixteenth governor-general (1965–69). Throughout these appointments, Maie was an unerring support, fulfilling her duties as vicereine with aplomb. Her husband, Lord Casey was made a life peer in the House of Lords in 1960 but Maie shone in her own right as an acclaimed author, artist, aviator, patron and doyenne of Australian society.1

1. Prepared with general reference to The Australian Dictionary of Biography entries: Langmore, D., ‘Casey, Ethel Marion (Maie)’ and O’Neill, T., ‘Lindsay, Joan à Beckett’



The lady casey- cecil beaton.jpg

photograph by Cecil Beaton