Important Australian + International Fine Art
24 April 2024


(1853 - 1928)

pastel and gouache on paper

35.5 x 76.5 cm

signed lower right: J. Sutherland

$30,000 – $40,000
Sold for $51,545 (inc. BP) in Auction 78 - 24 April 2024, Melbourne

Private collection, United Kingdom, by 1970s
Private collection, Scotland
Private collection, United Kingdom


Lindsay, F. & Rosewarne, S., Sutherland (exhibition catalogue), Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, 1977, p. 11
Burke, J., Australian Women Artists 1840 - 1940, Greenhouse Publications, Melbourne, 1980, p. 182

Catalogue text

Although their names remain comparatively little known, there were women artists among the ranks of Australia’s leading Impressionists, and Jane Sutherland is one such figure. Born in Glasgow in 1855, she emigrated to Australia with her family and settled in Melbourne in 1870, enrolling at the National Gallery School the following year. Her father, George, was an artist and he enrolled at the same time, either to refine his drawing skills or to chaperone his daughter.1 Frederick McCubbin was a fellow student and became a lifelong friend. With McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Walter Withers and E. Phillips Fox, among others, Sutherland took part in the first outdoor painting excursions to Box Hill during the mid-1880s, although propriety demanded that she didn’t camp with the men overnight.  

Her artistic skill was recognised early on with the award (received jointly with McCubbin) in 1874 of the Gallery School’s prize for drawing the ‘best figure in the round’ and her commitment to the life of a professional artist (she did not marry), as well as the camaraderie and respect she enjoyed among her male peers, is reflected in the range of her activities. In addition to exhibiting with the Victorian Academy of Arts from 1878, she regularly contributed to the annual Victorian Artists’ Society (VAS) exhibitions between 1888 and 1911. She was a member of the Buonarotti Society (the only female member to chair these gatherings), and in early 1900, she became the first woman to be elected to the Council of the VAS.2 By 1888, she had established a studio in Grosvenor Chambers on Collins Street (alongside Roberts, Louis Abrahams and Jane Price, among others), which she shared with Clara Southern. In 1889, she was described as ‘one of the busiest lady artists in Melbourne as, in addition to her painting, she has several pupils, whom she receives individually or in classes, giving close attention to drawing, as the absolutely necessary groundwork.’3  


Jane Sutherland
The mushroom gatherers, c.1895
oil on canvas, 41.8 x 99.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

This work in gouache and pastel is closely related to one of Sutherland’s most well-known paintings, The Mushroom Gatherers, c.1895 in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Exhibited at the VAS in 1895, the oil painting drew praise from the Table Talk critic who wrote, ‘Miss Jane Sutherland… has secured a very attractive and poetic effect in Mushroom Gatherers. The cold greyness characteristic of early dawn is perfectly represented, and the figures are posed in a natural and life-like manner… There is also very much in the picture that tells of studious and earnest observation of natural effects seen in the Australian landscape.’4 The composition is almost identical, with the exception of a tree stump which is omitted in this version, and Sutherland’s ability to capture the atmosphere and delicate colours of the landscape in soft morning light is clear. This work also reflects her interest in the theme of figures (often children from the artist’s extended family) in the landscape, which is seen in other paintings including Field Naturalists, c.1896 (National Gallery of Victoria) and Far-a-field, 1896 (private collection). Sutherland rarely dated her work and while she is known to have worked in pastel after suffering a stroke in 1900, and sometimes repeated subjects of earlier works, they are typically modest in scale. The large format of this work, which is only slightly smaller than the oil painting, makes it tempting to suggest the possibility of an earlier date. 

1. See Lindsay, F., ‘Jane Sutherland: Thoroughly Australian Landscapes’ in Lane, T., Australian Impressionism, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2007, p. 225
2. ibid., p. 226
3. ‘Miss Jane Sutherland’, Table Talk, Melbourne, 2 August 1889, p. 7
4. ‘Victorian Artists’ Exhibition’, Table Talk, Melbourne, 17 May 1895, p. 11