Ethel Spowers

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Ethel Louise Spowers (11 July 1890 – 5 May 1947) was an Australian artist associated with the Grosvenor School of Modern Art.

Early life[edit]

Ethel Louise Spowers was born on 11 July 1890, in South Yarra, Melbourne, daughter of a New Zealand father and a London-born mother. Her father, William Spowers, owned a newspaper. Spowers trained as an artist in Melbourne, with some study in Paris as well (most notably with André Lhote).[1]


Spowers had her first solo exhibit in Melbourne at age 30, showing fairy-tale illustrations as those of Ethel Jackson Morris.[2] In 1928–29, she studied linocut printmaking with Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London.[3] She was one of several Australian women artists at the Grosvenor School, including Dorrit Black and Eveline Winifred Syme.[4] Spowers mounted an exhibition of Australian linocuts in Melbourne in 1930. In 1932, she became a founder of the Contemporary Art Group, promoting modern art in Australia.[5]


  • The works, Yallourn (1933)[6]
  • Bank holiday (1935)[7]
  • Resting models (1933)[8]
  • Wet afternoon (1930)[9]

Spowers died on 5 May 1947, after a long illness from cancer, in Melbourne, age 56. She was buried at Fawkner Memorial Park.


A children's book illustrated by Spowers, Cuthbert and the Dogs, was published the year after her death.[10] The Art Gallery NSW holds several of her works, some from an early period of realistic illustrations, others showing the marked influence of her time at the Grosvenor School.[11]

Spowers apparently destroyed some of her original works late in life; the surviving prints are especially valued by collectors in recent years. In 2011, Ethel Spowers' Wet Afternoon sold in New York City for £51,650, much higher than any of her previous works had brought at auction.[12] The next year, Spowers' The Gust of Wind more than doubled that mark, selling for £114,050 in April 2012, a record price for any Grosvenor School print up to that date.[13][14]



  1. ^ Stephen Coppel, "Ethel Louise Spowers," Australian Dictionary of Biography 16(2002).
  2. ^ "The Fairy Dance by Ethel SPOWERS on Rare Illustrated Books". Rare Illustrated Books. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  3. ^ "Modern Australian Women: Works from a Private Collection". National Gallery Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  4. ^ Stephen Coppel, "Claude Flight and his Australian Pupils," Print Quarterly2(4)(December 1985): 263-283.
  5. ^ Helen Topliss, Modernism and Feminism: Australian Women Artists, 1900-1940 (Sydney: Craftsman House 1996).
  6. ^ "The works, Yallourn | Ethel SPOWERS". National Gallery Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Bank holiday". National Gallery Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Resting models". National Gallery Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Wet afternoon | Ethel SPOWERS | NGV | View Work". National Gallery Victoria. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  10. ^ Juliet O'Conor, Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things: A Celebration of Australian Illustrated Children's Books (Miegunyah Press 2009).
  11. ^ Works by Ethel Spowers, Art Gallery NSW,
  12. ^ Colin Gleadell, "Little Known 1920s Artwork Surprises Christie's Experts," Telegraph (3 May 2011).
  13. ^ Nicholas Forrest, "Australian Artist Ethel Spowers Claims Grosvenor School Crown," Blouin ArtInfo (2 May 2012).
  14. ^ Nicholas Forrest, "Six Rare Ethel Spowers Prints Head to Auction in London," Blouin ArtInfo (1 April 2013).