Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2012


(1906 - 1991)

oil on canvas

50.5 x 40.5 cm

signed with artist's maiden name lower right: Constance Parkin

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $54,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 26 - 29 August 2012, Melbourne

The artist's sister, Kathleen
Thence by descent
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 30 April 2002, lot 39
Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth


Exhibition of Paintings by Constance Parkin, Decoration Gallery, Melbourne, 24 October – 4 November 1933, cat. 8


The Age, Melbourne, 24 October 1933, p. 11

Catalogue text

Constance Stokes1 is best known as a gifted figure painter, especially of women welcoming of volume and classically inclined. Fine examples in public collections include Reverie c1946, (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide), and Woman Drying her Hair c1946, (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne). The latter gallery also boasts one of her best figure subjects, The Baptism c1950. She also painted landscapes and discerning portraits such as Portrait of George Bell c1960 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra). In the context of these successes, her early outstanding ability as a painter of still life pictures is unjustifiably overshadowed. Although both Melbourne's National Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra have still life oil paintings by Stokes, they are later works from circa 1950. The former features fruit, the latter is Vase of Flowers.

Green Gum Nuts c1933 was one of ten flower paintings among the fifty-two worksincluded in her 1933 Melbourne solo exhibition at the Decoration Gallery. Nevertheless, still life subjects are rare in her overall oeuvre. If that had not been so, she would long ago have challenged Margaret Preston's dominant position. Stokes was an outstanding still life painter, as seen in Green Gum Nuts. Ranking with the best that Preston then had to offer, its modernism and individuality has an appealing vitality and freshness of vision. While the eye is readily drawn to the sinuous greens of leaves and fullness of the nuts, their appeal is much enhanced by the colour contrast of the setting and its angled, geometric arrangements. This is further enriched by the skilful interplay between realism and abstraction. Stokes showed an early talent for still life when, in 1926, she won first prize for the genre while still a student at the Melbourne National Gallery Art School. Awarded the National Gallery of Victoria's Travelling Scholarship three years later, her paintings on return to Australia showed the beneficial influence of Walter Russell and William Monnington of London's Royal Academy schools. Modernist influences in Green Gum Nuts, however, reveal the benefits of having studied in Paris with André Lhote in the summer of 1933. Here, the gentlest hints of Cubism can be found in the structured balance and flatness of the setting, the perfect foil to the roundness of the gum nuts and striking three dimensionality of the brown vase. Within the conservative taste of Melbourne of the time, her 1933 exhibition was bold enough to evoke the comment that she had 'strayed from the Gallery training into that misty mid-region of the modernist'.2

1.'Parkin' was her maiden name, which she retained for her first solo exhibition in 1933, although she had married the year previously
2. Age, Melbourne, 24 October 1933, p. 11