BY THE SEA, c.1912

Important Australian + International Fine Art
4 May 2022


(1872 - 1952)
BY THE SEA, c.1912

oil on panel

26.0 x 33.5 cm

signed lower right: CARRICK

$60,000 – $80,000
Sold for $92,045 (inc. BP) in Auction 69 - 4 May 2022, Sydney

Private collection
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 11 May 1977, lot 25 (as ‘Mother and Child on Beach’)
Private collection, Melbourne


Possibly: Paintings by Mrs E Phillips Fox, The Guildhall, Melbourne, 11 – 26 July 1913, cat. 83
E. Phillips Fox & Ethel Carrick, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 13 November – 6 December 1997, cat. 44 (illus. in exhibition catalogue, p. 48)

Catalogue text

Marrying in 1905, Ethel Carrick and Emanuel Phillips Fox shared a rich, creative life, supporting each other in their respective artistic endeavours and ambitions. Before meeting at the artists’ colony of St Ives in Cornwall, both had undertaken formal artistic training – Fox at Melbourne’s National Gallery School, alongside Rupert Bunny and Fred McCubbin, and Carrick, at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. As newlyweds they moved to Paris, living in a studio apartment at the Cité Fleurie in Montparnasse, described by Carrick as ‘quite a cosmopolitan little colony of hard working artists … thirty different nationalities being represented.’1

As well as being a mecca for artists, Paris was well-positioned as a launching place for the couple’s frequent travels. Like many of their peers, the Foxes ‘travelled to paint and painted to travel’, and their works read like a visual itinerary, ‘in the summer… to artist colonies, such as… St Ives, or Pont Aven and Étaples in France, and sometimes to society beaches, such as Royan and Dinard. Destinations like Venice, Spain and Morocco were scheduled in the spring and autumn months.’2 They ‘followed the light’, typically spending winters in Paris where they would work in the studio, completing paintings based on outdoor oil sketches made during their travels the previous year, in preparation for submission to the Salons.3 

On occasion, the couple also travelled to Australia and it is likely that this charming work was made during one of these visits. In Sydney in 1913 and 1914, Carrick Fox painted a number of beach scenes including Manly Beach – Summer is Here, 1913 (Manly Art Gallery and Museum), which reflects the Australian enthusiasm for the beach, as well as the brilliant summer sunshine. In this painting, a woman watches two young children playing by the water’s edge. Elegantly attired in the manner of the day, she wears a long white dress and a hat adorned with colourful flowers. Presumably the children’s mother, she looks on tenderly, and the intimacy of the scene is highlighted by the younger child’s nudity. Although not surprising to a contemporary viewer, this was highly unusual in the early twentieth century when social mores decried public nakedness of any kind. Artistic precedents exist for this subject however, most significantly in this context, Emanuel Phillips Fox’s large-scale painting, Bathing Hour, 1909 (Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum).4 In this well-known painting, a mother dries her naked daughter on the sand against a backdrop of women and children on the shore and in the water, all of whom wear full-length dresses or neck-to-knee bathing costumes.  
Light and the representation of its effects remained a constant preoccupation for Carrick Fox and this is evident here, in the depiction of the mother whose figure is a study of deep shadows and bright white highlights. Similarly, the ocean, which features prominently, vivid blue in the distance and paler close to the shore, is painted in a series of expressive horizontal brushstrokes emphasising the movement of the water and the play of light across its surface. As a French critic wrote, ‘Mlle Ethel Carrick fires the enthusiasm of art lover … The quiet modesty of the artist conceals real knowledge about how to see, how to place the strokes side by side and to understand’.5

1. Carrick Fox quoted in Goddard, A., ‘An Artistic Marriage’ in Art, Love & Life: Ethel Carrick and E Phillips Fox, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2011, p. 18
2. Downey, G., ‘Cosmopolitans and Expatriates’ in Love & Life: Ethel Carrick and E Phillips Fox, ibid., p.57 
3. Ibid.
4. Fox produced two almost identical versions of this painting. The second, dated c.1909, is in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art. See Spate, V., ‘Nature and Artifice – Emanuel Phillips Fox Bathing hour’ in Seear, L., and Ewington, J., (eds.), Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850 – 1965 from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1998, pp. 108 – 111
5. Breuil, H., ‘Promenade travers les Salons de Salon d’Automne’ in Les Tendances Nouvelles, Paris, vol. 30, no. 39, December 1908, quoted in Goddard, op. cit., p.24