Artist Hilda Rix Nicholas lived on a property called Knockalong, near the town of Delegate in the Monaro (southern New South Wales), from 1928 until her death in 1961. Embellish: Hilda Rix Nicholas & The Art of Costume is being staged a two hour drive away at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery; close enough to consider Rix Nicholas a local, says gallery director Iain Dawson. And he points out that working on the Monaro plains affected more than just her landscape paintings. “I think the isolation of living on a remote property in the early 20th century had a strong influence on certain works featured in Embellish,” he explains.
As the title indicates, Embellish concentrates on the artist’s love of textiles and dressing up, and the show includes both her paintings and drawings of people in elaborate outfits as well as some actual costumes. Embellish deliberately presents a more domestic side of an artist perhaps best known for her portraits of World War I soldiers.
“I wanted to present an exhibition that celebrated an Australian artist who played on an international stage and who was recognised as a talent in Paris, London and Sydney but who was happiest when with her family and painting in the plains of the Snowy Mountains,” Dawson says. “Fancy dress and costume can be a way to work through hard times, and masquerade can be a chance to show a different personality. Ultimately I’d like the audience to see Hilda Rix Nicholas as a fully developed complex human with strong ideals, but simultaneously a creative, fun and playful spirit.”