Important Australian + International Fine Art
4 May 2022


(1879 - 1965)

oil on board

31.5 x 98.5 cm

signed lower right: Bessie Davidson
signed and inscribed with title on backing paper verso: Tulips with White Pot / Bessie Davidson

$50,000 – $80,000
Sold for $49,091 (inc. BP) in Auction 69 - 4 May 2022, Sydney

The artist’s studio, until 1965
The Osborne Art Gallery, Adelaide (label attached verso)
Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Victoria, acquired from the above in September 1981 


Exhibition of Paintings by Bessie Davidson, The Osborne Art Gallery, Adelaide, 31 May – 13 June 1967, cat. 10
Spring Exhibition, Joseph Brown Gallery, Melbourne, 10 – 24 September 1981, cat. 112 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)

Catalogue text

We are grateful to Brenda Martin Thomas, wife of the late David Thomas AO, for kindly allowing us to reproduce David's research and writing in this catalogue entry.

Adelaide-born Bessie Davidson spent most of her creative life in Paris, absorbing the elegance and sophistication which we associate with the French capital and manifesting it in her art. Such qualities imbue her landscapes, and especially the interiors and still life paintings in which she excels – Tulips with White Pot, c.1935 being a fine example. Her excellence in this genre was inevitably influenced by her earlier association with Margaret Preston (then Rose McPherson), in whose studio she studied from 1899 to 1904. Together, they travelled abroad, Davidson continuing her studies at the Munich Künstlerinner Verein, and in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Although Davidson returned to Adelaide in 1906 and taught for a number of years with Preston, her home became Paris where, from 1910 onwards, she would remain for the rest of her life. Significantly while Davidson loved France, like her friend and fellow-Australian expatriate artist resident in Paris, Rupert Bunny, she never gave up her Australian citizenship.

In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Davidson joined the French Red Cross and worked voluntarily as a nurse. Afterwards, her involvement in French life and art led to her being the first Australian woman to be elected to the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She was also a founder-member of the Salon des Tuileries, and vice president of the Société Nationale des Femmes Artistes Modernes. Her contribution to French art and to the nation resulted in the 1931 award of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. She exhibited regularly in Paris and London, being included in the 1938 L'Exposition du Groupe Feminin at the Petit Palais and, the following year, in the exhibition of French art that toured the U.S.A. Internationally, she is represented in the Musée d'Art Moderne, Musée d'Orsay, and Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, as well as in collections in The Netherlands, Edinburgh, and Fife. In 1999, the exhibition Bessie Davidson: Une Australienne en France, 1880 – 1965 was held at the Australian Embassy, Paris, May – July 1999 and more recently, the Bendigo Art Gallery staged the exhibition Bessie Davidson: An Australian Impressionist in Paris

Recording the visual pleasures of the everyday with the light-filled verve of French Impressionism, Davidson later developed a more prominent sense of form and compositional structure closer aligned to Paul Cézanne and Post Impressionism. It is this ‘Cézannesque’ style – which Davidson’s biographer, Penelope Little, describes as characterising ‘her most confident and productive years’1 – that is celebrated in Tulips with White Pot. Featuring the rich textural appeal and subtle sophistication that distinguishes Davidson as an artist of outstanding ability, her brushwork here is full of variety, with both vertical and horizontal strokes creating a fascinating picture surface where the various still life objects morph into the formal elements of painting itself – composition, colour, form and texture. Moreover, the unusual horizontal format and close-range viewpoint creates an overwhelming feeling of intimacy, of having the privilege of being alone with the still life which no doubt derives from its setting – most likely having been painted in the artist’s Paris studio at Rue Boissonade, Montparnasse, where Davidson lived from 1910 until her death.

1. Little, P., A Studio in Montparnasse; Bessie Davidson: An Australian in Paris, Craftsman House, Melbourne, 2003, p. 87