Margaret Coen

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Margaret Coen
Margaret Coen 1938.jpg
Margaret Coen
Margaret Agnes Coen

(1909-04-04)April 4, 1909
DiedAugust 27, 1993(1993-08-27) (aged 84)
St Ives, New South Wales
EducationKincoppal Convent, Australia
Known forPainting, drawing
Notable work
  • Flower piece from Merle’s Garden (1936)
  • Oriental harmony (1938)
  • The glade (1943)
  • Spring in the Bush (1957)
  • Dry Summer (1967)
SpouseDouglas Stewart

Margaret Coen (4 April 1909 – 27 August 1993) was an Australian artist, known for her watercolours, paintings of flowers, landscapes and still life works. Her paintings and personal papers are held in national collections.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Agnes Coen was born in Yass, NSW on 4 April 1909. She attended Kincoppal Convent in Elizabeth Bay where she studied drawing with Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo.[1]


After leaving school she attended Dattilo-Rubbo's city day class for women. After about a year she began studying at the Royal Art Society's night classes.[2]

In 1930 she met artist Norman Lindsay who became her mentor and introduced her to water colours.[3][4]

Coen worked as a commercial artist while continuing to attend art classes in the evenings. Her involvement with Circular Quay's artistic community led to her meeting the artist Edmund Arthur Harvey and he painted her portrait in 1932.[5] Coen began working with watercolor and in 1934 she exhibited her work with the Australian Watercolor Institute.[6][7]

In 1938 she had her first one-person exhibition at the Rubery Bennett Art Gallery.[8] She continued painting and exhibiting until a year or so before her death.


Paintings by Coen are held in public collections at the National Gallery of Australia[9] and the Art Gallery of New South Wales,[10] S.H. Ervin Gallery Collection and a hand painted silk map is in the State Library of New South Wales collection.[11] The largest archive of her work, including paintings originally purchased by Howard Hinton for the Armidale Teachers College, is in the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale.[12]


Coen's papers are in the manuscript collection at the State Library of NSW. Seventeen watercolour paintbrushes used by Coen from 1970 to 1993 are in the National Museum of Australia Collection.[13] A smaller collection of her archive is held by the Library and Archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Honours and awards[edit]

Coen was made an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Watercolor Institute. She won the Pring Prize in 1968 for Dry Summer.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Margaret Coen holding her daughter Meg Stewart

Coen married Australian poet Douglas Stewart on 5 December 1945 at the Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Randwick.[15] They had a daughter, Meg, who was born in 1948. Meg published a biography of her mother.[16] Douglas Stewart mentioned Coen by name in the poem "Table Talk", part of a series of poems published in Southerly Magazine under the title "Fragments of Autobiography".[17] Stewart also mentioned Coen's painting of magnolias in his poem "The Pictures".[18]

Coen suffered from Parkinson's disease, and died on 27 August 1993 at St Ives.


  1. ^ Kent, Jacqueline. "Autobiography of my Mother - Book Review". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  2. ^ Stewart, Meg; Coen, Margaret; State Library of New South Wales (1997), Margaret Coen : a passion for painting, State Library of New South Wales Press, ISBN 978-0-7310-6609-4
  3. ^ "Margaret Coen Collection". Paper Parrot. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  4. ^ "A Passion for Colours - The Colours of Margaret Coen | Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum". Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Portrait of Margaret Coen, 1932 / Edmund Arthur Harvey". State Library of NSW. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  6. ^ "Work by Women Artists". Sydney Mail. Vol. LI, no. 1307. New South Wales, Australia. 14 April 1937. p. 24. Retrieved 11 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "FOR WOMEN". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 31, 356. New South Wales, Australia. 1 July 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 11 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "WATERCOLOURS". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 31, 337. New South Wales, Australia. 9 June 1938. p. 7. Retrieved 11 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "POPULAR ARTIST PASSES". Telegraph (Brisbane). Queensland, Australia. 11 July 1938. p. 17 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved 11 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "YOUNG SYDNEY FLOWER-PAINTER". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 31, 371. New South Wales, Australia. 19 July 1938. p. 11 (Women's Supplement). Retrieved 11 May 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ Stewart, Meg (Summer 2013–14). "Trout fishing at Kosciuszko" (PDF). SL Magazine: 28–31. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Coen's circle". New England Art Regional Art Museum. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Seventeen watercolour paintbrushes used by Margaret Coen". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Wynne Prize finalists 1968 :: Art Gallery NSW". Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  15. ^ Indyk, Ivor. "Stewart, Douglas Alexander (1913–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  16. ^ Stewart, Meg (2007), Autobiography of my mother (Rev ed.), Vintage Books Australia, ISBN 978-1-74166-823-0
  17. ^ Stewart, Douglas (June 1983). "Fragments of autobiography". Southerley. 43 (2): 228–230.
  18. ^ Stewart, Douglas (1992), Selected poems, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-17614-2

Further reading[edit]

  • Australian Prints + Printmaking, a database listing printmaking artists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region based on the print collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
  • Campbell, Jean (1989), Australian watercolour painters, 1780 to the present day ([New ed.] ed.), Craftsman House, ISBN 978-0-947131-28-9 Page 297
  • Germaine, Max. Artists and Galleries of Australia, Volumes 1 & 2, Third Edition. Craftsman Press, Sydney, 1990. Page 128
  • Germaine, Max. A Dictionary of Women Artists of Australia. Craftsman House, Sydney, 1991. Page 84* Keesing, Nancy (1988), Riding the elephant, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-0-04-150087-5
  • McCulloch, Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch, Emily McCulloch-Childs. The New McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art. 4th Edition, Aus Art Melbourne & The Miegunyah Press, 2006. Page 330
  • Mendelssohn, Joanna; Lindsay, Norman (1996), Letters & liars : Norman Lindsay and the Lindsay family, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-18272-3
  • Stewart, Douglas (1975), Norman Lindsay : a personal memoir, Thomas Nelson (Australia), ISBN 978-0-17-005053-1
  • Stewart, Douglas; Coen, Margaret; Stewart, Meg (1987), Douglas Stewart's garden of friends, Viking, ISBN 978-0-670-81628-6