Recognising Mary Alice Evatt

2003 NSW History Fellowship Winner: Dr Melissa Boyde

Dr Melissa Boyde has been awarded the New South Wales 2003 History Fellowship to enable her to research the life and work of Mary Alice Evatt (1898-1973), modernist painter and wife of Herbert Vere (Doc) Evatt.

The project builds on work undertaken by Dr Boyde while curating an exhibition on Mary Alice Evatt for the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery. The exhibition has since been shown in Melbourne, Sydney and Albury and will be shown in Canberra and Mornington this year.

The fellowship judges were impressed by work already undertaken by Dr Boyde, as well as by her choice of subject, believing that Mary Alice Evatt has been given insufficient recognition as an artist, arbiter of public taste, and advocate of social and cultural change.

It was felt that this project would make an important contribution to the recognition of both the critical role of Australian women artists in the Modernist period and Mary Alice's role as an advocate of contemporary art.

It also has the potential to shake up current understandings of the Evatts' place in modernism and the historical importance of their relationship.

Dr Boyde holds a BA(Hons Class 1) from the University of Wollongong, an MA(with Distinction) in Communication and Cultural Studies from the University of Western Sydney, and a PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies from Macquarie University.

She currently lectures in Media Studies and Australian Literature at the Bathurst Campus of CSU.

Dr Evatt and his wife Mary Alice were lovers of the arts when the arts - especially in the ranks of labour politics - were considered effete and irrelevant, if they were considered at all. The Evatts bought many works from struggling young artists, which of course became works of great value later in their lives.

In 1990 the Evatt Executive Committee decided that an annual Art Award in the name of Mary Alice Evatt should be awarded to the best final year student artwork chosen from the annual students' exhibitions in the Bachelor of Visual Arts courses at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur and Nepean campuses.

The Committee has awarded the 2002 Art Award to Bathurst Regional Art Gallery for a catalogue of the exhibition Mary Alice Evatt 'Mas' 1898-1973. The Evatt Foundation considers this to be a fitting tribute to the memory of Mary Alice and her passionate faith in the freedom of individual expression in art.

It is satisfying to see that curator of the Bathurst Exibition has now gone on to larger things by winning this award to further developing the nation's understanding of Mary Alice's marvellous contribution to Australian art and her role as an advocate of contemporary art.


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