10 facts about Elaine Haxton

By Gwylym Owen

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Elaine Alys Haxton, AM (26 September 1909–6 July 1999) was an Australian painter, printmaker, designer and poster artist.

Haxton was born in the north Melbourne suburb of Newmarket. Her relations moved to Sydney later than she was a young child and she attended the East Sydney Technical School from 1924-1928. The art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald commented her graduating function manifested “a Good grasp of composition and colour”. She spent some time dynamic for Raynor Hoff bearing in mind an early interest in sculpture, and later some mature in the art department of David Jones before she travelled to London in 1933. She attended the Grosvenor School of Art but to attain this worked as a commercial artiste at J. Walter Thompson. She next found era to travel on the order of Europe, usually by train similar to a rucksack. She visited France, Germany and Spain and was along with Australian sculptor Eileen McGrath. At the fall of the 1930s she visited New York and returned to Australia via Mexico at the outbreak of war. Her associates and contemporaries in Sydney were Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend and William Dobell. Her portrait by Dobell was a finalist in the 1941 Archibald Prize.

She was one of five women artists exhibited at the Australian Commercial and Industrial Artists Association (ACIAA)’s first Sydney exhibition in 1940, three years after the association’s founding in 1937.

In 1943 she won the Sir John Sulman Prize for a mural commissioned by restauranteur Walter Magnus for Le Coq D’Or Restaurant, Ash Street, Sydney. The mural, since painted over, was inspired by the Ballets Russes production of Le Coq D’Or. She had in the past completed a series of seven murals for his Kings Cross Claremont Cafe. Haxton lived for a grow old in Dutch New Guinea producing costumes and sets for a ballet company.

In 1946 she won the Ballarat Crouch Prize for Painting in the flavor of her painting Mother and Child and returned to New York to attend the New York School for New Design.

In 1954, PIX magazine described her as “having a feeling for colour and design” and had “gay paintings hanging in New York and most National Galleries in Australia”. The same year Haxton designed costumes and scenery for the Borovansky Ballet’s touring production of Los Tres Diabolos based upon Offenbach’s opera. When Haxton undertook to Make and design both costumes and the theatre sets, she felt “a bit amazed at taking on such a tremendous job – especially as I was preparing for my one-man exhibition at the time”, and after ensuring that her ideas were practical, “I set to deed and have thoroughly enjoyed work it”. Her exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries was capably received and James Cook, art critic for The Daily Telegraph found she had lost “none of her earlier adventurous spirit”.

Haxton continued to create large backdrops for other Borovansky productions, and turned her incorporation towards printmaking. She trained in Paris at Atelier 17, the studio of Stanley William Hayter in 1967 at Rue Moulin Vert. Haxton was dexterous to adjoin travel with acquit yourself and in 1972 spent time in Bali, Sumatra and Java researching and creating a series of illustrations for Maslyn Williams”s book The Story of Indonesia.

In 1986 Haxton was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “services to the arts, particularly printmaking”.

Haxton’s painting GI Jeeps in New Guinea was included in the Australian War Memorial’s 1995 exhibition Through women’s eyes: Australian women artists and prosecution 1914 – 1996. Senior art critic for the Canberra Times, Sasha Grishin, commented her large painting created “an approximately surreal tone where the combatants considering their toy-like equipment, … dwarfed by the grandeur of nature”.

Haxton married Brigadier Richard Cunningham Foot, OBE, MC in 1954 and they moved to Clareville, Sydney.

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