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a biannual magazine for collectors of material culture

ART MOVES Stars at the Venice Biennale Emerging talent from Bangladesh

BESPOKE JEWELLERY Gold and silver work: A proliferation of 21st century ideas and designs across continents

AUGUST 2011 - FEBRUARY 2012 ISSUE 81 AUSTRALIA $16.95 NZ $20.95 SINGAPORE $20.00 UK £7.00 US $13.00 €10.50

FOR COLLECTORS OF PORCELAIN Science helps unravel some mysteries

COLLECTING DIRECTIONS To view or to acquire – be informed Exquisite art - Grand masterworks Mid century textiles


Contents 124

AROUND THE AUCTIONS

66

Colonial Tasmanian silverwork The James Grant Presentation Cup of c. 1849

Auction highlights from the major houses

Robert Reason

ART 14

The visions of Fred Williams –

88

the allure of gemstones in their designs

seeing the world in terms of paint

Amanda Stücklin

One of Australia’s greatest landscape painters Deborah Hart 28

Helen Musa 70

94

4

EDITORIAL HERITAGE

Investment and art Italian style James Bradburne

Michael O’Connor: a key figure in contemporary textile design Harriet Edquist

Contemporary Bangladesh art A rising international presence

The cream of Britain’s jewellery designers explore

42

Pioneering botanists and early Australian colonial cabinetmakers

76

John B Hawkins

Michael Le Grand raises the question of refurbishing and repainting modern sculpture

100

Helen Musa 80

A focussed collection of Indian ragamala paintings:

The Thaw Collection of Native American art masterpieces Eva C Fognell

112

a genre combining poetry, painting and music

Stowe House – a resource of 18th century craftsmanship Jonathan Foyle

Anna L Dallapiccola 118 84

Challenging an attribution: a Pietro da Cortona in Australia?

George Frederick Watts: the man and his gallery Elspeth Moncrieff

Fresh questions and an ongoing investigation Simona Albanese

144

INDEX OF ADVERTISERS

34

Pictorial photography in India and the work of

ARTNEWS 38

74

Negotiating this year’s biggest Australian art deal

PHOTOGRAPHY

Terry Ingram

Shapoor N Bhedwar

Venice Biennale 2011

Gael Newton

Tim McCormick and Vivienne Sharpe

PROFILE 143

CONTRIBUTORS

106

Understanding of trends and collecting in 19th century England via Sir Charles Eastlake’s acquisitions for the

22

DECORATIVE ARTS AND DESIGN

National Gallery in London

Masterpieces from the Hapsburg Kunstkammer

Susanna Avery-Quash

Victoria Avery 52

The Limehouse manufactory’s secrets unravelled William Jay

60

Contemporary Western Australian jewellers Journeys in design Dorothy Erickson

2 World of Antiques & Art

COVER Shapoor N Bhedwar (India 1858-after 1918), The Flower Girl, 1890; The feast of roses series, Bombay, Maharashtra, India, gelatin silver photograph, 36.4 x 27.0 cm, support 60.8 x 48.2 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2009


photography

Indian culture in a western setting Moving from the cricket pitch to elite photographic salons Shapoor N Bhedwar used the medium of photography to meld Parsi culture within a western framework Gael Newton Born in India, Shapoor N Bhedwar

(Shapurjee Nusserwanjee Bhedwar), a member of the first Parsi cricket team to tour England in May-July 1886. Bhedwar took up photography in 1888 in India to illustrate one of his own literary efforts and soon became obsessed with the medium as an art form. Leaving his wife and son behind, Bhedwar travelled to England to study at the Polytechnic School in London in 1889. He also learnt from prominent art photographer Ralph W Robinson in Redhill, Surrey. He was soon winning medals in the Photographic Salon (later the Royal Photographic Society). Bhedwar was the first Indian photographer to exhibit in British photographic art salons and the Shapoor N Bhedwar (India 18581918), The Flower Girl, 1890; The feast of roses series, Bombay, Maharashtra, India, gelatin silver photograph, 36.4 x 27.0 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2009

only Asian ever elected to the elite Linked Ring Brotherhood of art photographers in London. He joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1892 and became a Fellow that year. One reviewer at the time said of Bhedwar: ‘He came, he saw, he conquered.’ One of the artist’s most successful projects was the series of six tableaux photographs The feast of roses, which illustrates the hugely popular poem Lallah Rookh. Written by Irish balladeer Thomas Moore and first published in 1817, the poem is a romance set in ancient India. The feast of roses shows the influence of Pre-Raphaelite art and European art photography but cleverly also highlight his own cultural and ethnic background in Parsi themes and symbolic motifs such as roses. In 1892 Bhedwar returned to India and opened a portrait studio at Swiss Lodge, Cumballa Hill, an affluent suburb in Bombay favoured by British and Parsi families. He catered to middle and upper class clientele as well as royalty, whilst continuing to actively exhibit his personal art photography at home and abroad. In 1907 the reviewer of Photograms of the Year commented that his work had become formulaic and Bhedwar had no further work published in the annual. Pictorial photography and salons flourished in India well into the 1950s but surviving prints from the pioneer art photographers are very rare. The first exhibition and catalogue in India to showcase Bhedwar was held in Bombay in 2010 at the The Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum (formerly the Victoria and Albert Museum). The works in The Artful Pose: Early Studio Photography in Mumbai c. 1855-1940 were drawn from the extensive holdings assembled in the last decade by the Alkazi Collection of Photography in New Delhi.


art

Bangladesh a rising presence in the global arts arena The art scene is rapidly expanding in Bangladesh where visual art has been left uncensored since independence in 1971. Events like the National Art Exhibition, Asian Art Biennale and now its presence at the Venice Biennale all indicate its emergence as a serious force in the contemporary art world Helen Musa Though Bangladesh’s art market is

Taslima Akther, Interior Jiro “O”, undated, mixed media, 90 x 90 cm Sanjib Saha, Just This Time, 2011, mixed media, 100 x 75 cm

smaller than India’s, it now joins its neighbour in creating a sub-continental presence—Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal are not yet among the 89 countries in the Venice Biennale. Under the title Parables, five artists: Promotesh Dal Pulak, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisty and Imran Hossain Piplu, exhibited provocative contemporary works addressing the contradictions of the country’s culture and the legacies of its recent past. The Bangladeshi Pavilion was largely the initiative of Paolo Tamburella, the artist-owner of the exhibiting space, the Gervasuti Foundation, and Rome-based American curator Mary Angela Schroth. Together they attempted to counter the lack of resources that has made

it difficult for Bangladesh’s contemporary art to have global reach. But from the purely Bangladeshi point of view, there has been no shortage of art to boast about since 1971 when the country’s War of Liberation, still honoured in memorials around the nation’s capital Dhaka, saw the former East Pakistan liberated from Pakistan. Not only was that war about political independence, it was a profound struggle to achieve cultural and linguistic freedom in a Bengali (Bangla) speaking nation that invented the international ‘Mother Language Day.’ I visited Bangladesh recently as part of a delegation of journalists hosted by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and arrived just as the country’s nineteenth National Art Exhibition was opening at the Shilpakala Arts Academy. This is a giant institution and home to the National Theatre and National Art Gallery, as well as professional schools in dance, drama, film, music, and the visual arts. It also handles grants to Governmentapproved cultural institutions and organisations, conducts research on traditional heritage and culture and stages exhibitions and festivals. Founded in 1974 while the three-year-old republic was still suffering growing pains, the academy has no fewer than 64 branches around the countryside, proof that to Bangladeshis art practice is a serious matter. With music and visual public expressions of creativity all around them, Bengalis are also inclined to burst into poetry and song and will frequently remind visitors that the revered Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s words form the lyrics for the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh.


Ashraful Hasan, Tree-Man, Newspaper and Brick, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 106 x 136 cm

The current director general of the academy and a noted theatre director in his own right, Liaquat (‘Lucky’) Ali, walked me through the formidable exhibition of 265 paintings, prints, sculptures, tapestries, installations and video art that were selected from 1250 entries. A large number of the works target the country’s political scene and social issues like religious extremism, corruption, injustice and misuse of power. There was an entire absence of representational scenes of nature or conventional portraiture. Amused by my evident surprise that so many of the artworks were confronting, bloody or sexually provocative and always sharp in their social and political attack, the director told me that the visual arts in Bangladesh had not, since independence, been subjected to censorship. That, he said, was in contrast to the highly verbal Bangladeshi theatre, which was quite often curbed. In Ali’s view, the academy and focal events like this exhibition, served a higher agenda and should ideally entice ‘mass people’ to view art. The event, he said, has also become a platform for the exchange of ideas between artists, critics and art enthusiasts. Noted Bangladeshi art critic Ziaul Karim, in a catalogue essay for the show, is less strident regarding the national agenda, but nonetheless points to the need for an ‘overhaul of western artistic domination.’ He says that the founding fathers of the post-independence art movement, Zainul Abedin and Qamrul Hasan, ‘looked for alternative sources of inspiration in pre-colonial art traditions,’ setting an alternative path for their artists through the inspiration of indigenous culture and, in Hasan’s case, the appropriation of western modernism to make political statements. Karim shares the opinion of Chinese art critic Hou Hanru that the ‘staggering’ proliferation of prizes, festivals and biennales, even in his own country, is in danger of swamping the art world with commercialism, resulting in either a monopoly by central institutions or ‘the repetitive showcasing of familiar art works.’ The kaleidoscopic character of the 2011 National Art Exhibition suggested to me that there is little danger of repetitive showcasing in Bangladesh right now. Just about every art

medium you could imagine was on show— conventional oils and acrylics, metals and wood, three-dimensional installations, ceramics and mixed media works involving indigenous cloth, corrugated cardboard and discarded materials. The main winner was Ashtabula Hasan’s Tree Man, Newspaper and Brick, a remarkable work in which the ubiquitous bricks of Bangladesh joined the detritus of daily newspapers, the twisting roots of a banyan-like tree and the human form in a technically superb, disturbing image. The installations, which included another prizewinning work Garden of Hell by Saidul Haque Juise, were often angry, attacking consumerism, militarism and the stereotyping of women. The focus on women continued in two dimensional works like Hariye Geche Sonar Meye (Golden Daughter Lost) by Shulekha Chaudry, where a perfect image of a domestic goddess was pierced with matchsticks. In another, Atia Islam Anne’s Dolls and Society-1, the image of a

Saidul Haque Juise, Garden of Hell-2 (detail), undated, colour fabric, paper, 450 x 450 x 300 cm

World of Antiques & Art 29


art

Atia Islam Anne, Dolls and Society, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 121 cm Shulekha Chaudry, Hariye Geche Sonar Meye (Golden Daughter Lost), 2011, 270 x 270 x 90 cm

woman was constructed from mass media stereotypes. The apple appeared as a female symbol, as it did elsewhere in the exhibition. Zainul Abedin’s legacy continued in the apparently naïve work Patar Gan Banglar Bag (Stone Song, Bengali Tiger) by Nazir Hossain and Debashis Pal’s ceramic work Our Destruction-1, showed the heads of sacrificed animals at the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. But in contrast to a national exhibition I viewed in Iran three years ago, few of the artworks explored religious themes. It is worth noting, however, that in a Muslim country which prides itself on its pluralism, several Buddhist-inspired works were exhibited. Debashis Pal, Our Destruction-1, 2010 (detail), ceramic, 135 x 90 x 90 cm Nazir Hossain, Patar Gan Banglar Bag (Stone Song, Bengali Tiger), 2009, mixed media, 60 x 60 cm


Pop art made an appearance in the form of Bollywood-style power-images and popular music motifs. An implied political comment in the unsettling bark sculpture Edge of Ruin by Shyamal Chandra Sarker seemed more metaphorical than literal. It is unremarkable that we know so little about contemporary Bangladeshi art. This is a huge country with a population of about 150 million people grappling with enormous social and environmental issues. But it is also a nation with an instinctive love of art that can be harnessed to consolidate a sense of identity. Bangladesh founded its own Asian Art Biennale in 1981. Although Australia is not an official exhibitor (the participating countries range from Jordan to China and Japan) South Australian Iranian-born artist Hossein Valamanesh was grand prize winner in 1997 at the eighth Biennale. The next one, the fifteenth, falls in 2012, with the stated aim of exploring the co-existence of modernity and tradition in the art of Asian countries. Technologically, organisers argue, Asian countries may have been latecomers in the global scene, but have rich cultural traditions based on a collective ethos and age-old aesthetic practices that fit very well with the twenty-first century. What is remarkable is that, along with the Indian Triennale and the Fukuoka Asian Art show, Bangladesh’s Biennale was one of the first

such events in the region, which is fast becoming the new epicentre of the art world. Ziaul Karim likens the proliferation of art galleries in China to that of franchise coffee shops. Bangladesh will certainly want a cup of the coffee and a slice of the cake.

Syed Md. Shorab Jahan, Letter to a Child Never Born-2, 2011, sculpture mixed-media, 90 x 120 by 120 cm Shyamal Chandra Sarker, Edge of Ruin, 2011, mixed media, 150 x 120 x 120 cm Selection from Abdus Salam, Subject Contemporary, 2011, acrylic on canvas, various sizes


artnews

State Library’s Derby Punt is a winner

Yet to be identified and labelled watercolours from the Earl of Derby’s collection. The TAL & Dai-ichi Life Collection. Courtesy Mitchell Library State Library of NSW

Terry Ingram The State Library of NSW has made

what is likely to be the biggest Australian art deal of 2011. It has acquired a collection of watercolours of Australian plants and animals for around $6 million. Oddly it has done so by negotiating with a man who once sold a broken biscuit for $20,000. The biscuit was a left over from an Antarctica expedition by the South Pole explorer Ernest Shackleton. The library, however, was not taken for a ride—even a sleigh ride—in making this ground breaking acquisition. In negotiations through Nicolas Lambourn, head of Christie’s travel department, the library acquired the 13th Earl of Derby’s collection of

38 World of Antiques & Art

colonial watercolours and drawings. It acquired them from family and descendants of the Earl which were housed at the present earl’s Knowsley Hall. This is a Downton Abbey-like pile in Britain’s Derbyshire which operates as a convention centre and safari park. They are in fresh condition and can be related to some of the artists already known to be active in early New South Wales and to overseas artists who later used the work in published illustrations. Lambourn has helped Australians repatriate a lot of our history over the last thirty years but his previous effort proved a disappointment when the auction of a boomerang said to have belonged to Captain Cook was cancelled. How does one prove that Captain Cook actually owned the weapon! Research is still being done on the


boomerang and a lot of work has yet to be done on the watercolours which is however likely to yield a treasury of information on art and botany and bird life in early New South Wales. The library’s ground-breaking purchase is the last major cache of early New South Wales natural history art left in private hands. The existence and whereabouts of the collection has long been known, and with a strong Australian dollar and the backing of a Japanese corporation the library pounced. The price for the watercolours has not been disclosed, but usually reliable sources suggest that they could be of the order World of Antiques and Art is now reporting. The 741 drawings of fishes, flora and fauna are in six albums compiled in the late 18th early 19th centuries by the Aylmer Lambert (17611842) a leading British botanist who is best known for his work on pine trees. Edward Smith-Stanley, the 13th Earl of Derby, acquired them in 1843 and they have only now come back on the market. The 13th Earl was a big collector who left the stuffed and other specimens in his collection to Liverpool Museums and a big new museum has just been opened in Liverpool to rehouse them. The watercolours were a coup—admittedly one waiting to happen—by any standards. The Mitchell Library at the State Library NSW, with its big First Fleet collection, is the natural home for them. The Mitchell librarian, Richard Neville who has handled the purchase, says the majority of the pictorial material of this nature remains in English public institutions, with no possibility of repatriation. ‘They are the very working tools by which knowledge of Australia and its environment found its way into European consciousness, into books and museums,’ Neville says. The purchase was made possible through donations from TAL (formerly Tower Australia) and its parent company Dai-ichi Life, the State Government of NSW and the State Library Foundation. Some of the Earl’s other holdings, however, are already in the Mitchell. The Earl also owned a collection of thirteen Australian views by the colonial artist Joseph Lycett, which were acquired by the SLNSW at a Christie’s sale in 1953.

Various museums in Merseyside are a bit of a debtor to Australia. The Lady Lever Museum at Port Sunlight has several iconic Victorian Olympian paintings that had been in the collection of Sir George McCulloch (founder of BHP) until their sale in 1911 at Christie’s in London. The ‘Broken hillionaire’ gave only a few works to the Australia museums. From 2007 Liverpool Museum has been returning Australian Aboriginal skeletal remains which came to the UK and into its possession when they were purchased from Dr William Broad of Liverpool in 1948, who had visited Australia between 1902 and 1904 and published works on them. The acquisition suggests public museums will be leading players in the art and antiques market this year. At the Bonhams June 2011 decorative arts sale held in Sydney they were strong if not always successful bidders. A lot of important sales activity is also taking place by private treaty that would previously have been done by auction. The Earl of Derby’s collection was never likely to have been an auction proposition as no single individual would have been able to accommodate all of it. The collection would have been hard to split up and irresponsible to do so from a heritage point of view. These deals, which cut out the chance of the public humiliation of a work when it fails to sell under the hammer, are done discretely and do not tend to come to light. But for five to ten per cent or more—and no sweat or buyer’s premium— everyone involved is happy.

World of Antiques & Art 39


decorative arts

Michael O‘Connell (1898–1976) Pioneer of Australian printed textile design In his 1934 History of Australian Art, art critic and historian William Moore wrote of Michael O’Connell’s hand block-printed textiles: ‘The range and variety of his designs show that he has rare powers of invention; and his sense of colour is very evident. One gets more stimulus from a display of his fabrics than from many an exhibition of pictures.’1 Harriet Edquist

Michael O’Connell, Pan with pots, c. 1930, linocut on linen. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Reproduced courtesy the Estate of Michael O’Connell

94 World of Antiques & Art

While a survey of modern painting in Melbourne in 1934 will tend to confirm Moore’s opinion, today references to O’Connell have almost vanished from the histories of Australian art and his impact in Melbourne has never been examined in detail. Born in Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire in 1898, O’Connell fought on the Western front in World War One before moving to Melbourne in 1920. For three years he eked out a living as a photographer and watercolour artist, holding exhibitions at the Athenaeum Gallery and elsewhere. With money his mother had provided for agricultural studies (which he never undertook) he bought a block of land in the relatively undeveloped coastal suburb of Beaumaris where he pitched a tent and established what he called his ‘camp,’ painting and growing flowers for sale in the local shops. He began to build Barbizon in 1923, his small radical house constructed from concrete blocks which O’Connell manufactured himself, soon developing craft expertise in concrete which flowed into the making of concrete pots, plaques, tiles, masks, planters and garden furniture such as bird baths, fountains and sundials as well as small figurative works. It was this work that provided him with the income that his watercolours had not. For years his ‘garden furniture’ formed the centrepiece of the annual exhibitions of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria of which he became a


stalwart member, forging lasting friendships with many of its members. O’Connell began experimenting with linocuts in 1929 and by April 1930, he embarked on Pandemonium, his first exhibited textile, composed of twelve large individual panels printed on linen to form a continuous frieze. Depicting scenes of metropolitan night life in a modern style, it was an extraordinary work and from that point O’Connell’s direction as a textile designer was set. He re-used individual panels of Pandemonium in a number of hangings and curtains and began to produce textiles of an astonishing freedom and individuality of style, influenced by European, Asian and tribal art. Working in an environment with no tradition of

hand block-printing on fabric O’Connell had to learn about dyeing through experimental trial and error, and by the early 1930s was sufficiently secure in his technique to conduct classes in textile printing at the Melbourne Technical College where he influenced a number of artists including Frances Derham and Frances Burke. His textile production was in an uncomplicated studio attached to Barbizon which became a destination for fellow artists, clients, journalists and curious visitors. In 1931 he married Ella Moody, former Secretary of the Arts and Crafts Society, and they conducted a retail outlet and postal order service from Beaumaris, producing fabrics to the specifications of clients. In December 1932, Table Talk (a Melbourne

Hanging, paste resist on cotton, 1960s. Reproduced courtesy the Estate of Michael O’Connell

World of Antiques & Art 95


decorative arts

Left: ‘Caledonia’ (detail) paste resist and block-printed on rayon, 1950. Courtesy Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading & Seamus O’Connell Right: ‘Sirens’, block-printed on linen, 1931. Courtesy Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading & the Estate of Michael O’Connell

weekly paper) described O’Connell as ‘one of the few artists we have here who does dress the part, and at least looks like the picturesque Chelsea painters we all read about. He makes those beautiful hand blocked linens that quite a number of our very smartest girls have made into attractive frocks this year, as well as using them for interior decorating. The artist looks almost as colourful as his work, too, for he dresses, when at home, in brightly patterned chintz smocks… and this home is the most fascinating place, hidden away among the titree at Black Rock [sic]. Michael O’Connell made it for himself out of bricks he made himself, and filled it with furniture he made himself and hangings he made himself. The result is perfect.’ 2 By 1934 O’Connell had a well-travelled, urban clientele in both Melbourne and Sydney who could purchase his textiles by mail order, at department stores (Myer and Farmers) and in a growing number of specialist outlets such as the

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Primrose Pottery Shop established by Edith Macmillan in 1929 in Little Collins Street. In addition, by the early 1930s Fred Ward, who had exhibited with O’Connell in at least one print exhibition in the late 1920s, had turned his attention to furniture design and developed a simple, functional style of furniture expressed in Australian timbers. He established a shop in Collins Street, possibly in partnership with O‘Connell, to showcase their work. By the time Cynthia Reed took it over in 1934, O’Connell‘s linens were well established in the lexicon of Melbourne‘s young design professionals. The eclecticism and figurative vibrancy of the early hangings had been laid aside for abstract designs and smaller patterns considered more suitable for modern interior spaces, and they could be found in interiors by leading designers including Mollie Turner Shaw, Marcus Martin and Roy Grounds, and Sydney designer Marion Hall Best. O’Connell believed textile design was more suited to modernity than art, stating: ‘Textile decoration is the most important art apart from


decorative arts Hanging, paste resist on rayon, early 1950s. Courtesy Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading & Seamus O’Connell

the movies, in the world today. Other arts, such as painting and ceramics, have had their golden age in the past. Now it is the turn of textiles. He approved of the British Institute of Industrial Art’s mandate to bring the artist closer to the manufacturer, recognising that the artist was central to industry’s success. Only in 1947 was a similar body, the Society of Designers (now the Design Institute of Australia) established in Australia, its founding members including Fred Ward and textile designer Frances Burke. Michael and Ella moved permanently to England in time for the coronation of George VI in May 1937, an event they intended to capitalise on with a collection of hand-blocked patriotically-themed linens. Soon he became a key figure in contemporary textile design, producing fabrics for Edinburgh Weavers and Harrods in 1938 and then for Heal’s during the 1940s and 1950s. Following World War Two, O’Connell was involved in a number of progressive projects for schools and public institutions in the optimistic years of post-war Britain, including the celebrated wall hangings for the Country Pavilion at the Southbank Exhibition of the Festival of Britain in 1951. During the 1960s until his death in 1976, O’Connell kept pace with contemporary art practice from his studio-home in Perry Green Hertfordshire, producing large-scale, innovative ‘textile murals’ in his unique combination of batik and resist dyeing. An exhibition examining the work of this British/Australian artist titled The Lost Modernist: Michael O’Connell is showing at Bendigo Art Gallery 26 November 2011- 26 February 2012. More at www.bendigoartgallery.com.au. NOTES 1 William Moore, The Story of Australian Art, Angus and Robertson, Melbourne 1934, vol. 2, p. 104 2 ‘The Letters of Letty’, Table Talk, 29 December 1932, p. 12

Hangings outside The Chase, Perry Green, Hertfordshire. Courtesy the Estate of Michael O’Connell


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State of the market: From Australia to London collecting trends are strong Review of a major Sydney auction New look for London fairs

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Vida Lahey, one of Queensland’s best-loved artists

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