Rosalie Gascoigne

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Rosalie Gascoigne
Born (1917-01-25)25 January 1917
Auckland, New Zealand
Died 23 October 1999(1999-10-23) (aged 82)
Canberra, Australia
Nationality Australian
Known for Painting, sculpture
Notable work Earth (1999)
Awards Exhibited, Venice Biennale 1982
Order of Australia 1994

Rosalie Gascoigne AM (25 January 1917 – 23 October 1999) was a New Zealand-born Australian sculptor. She showed at the Venice Biennale in 1982, becoming the first female artist to represent Australia there. In 1994 she was awarded the Order of Australia for her services to the arts.


Gascoigne was born Rosalie Norah King Walker in Auckland, New Zealand. She emigrated to Canberra, Australia in 1943 at the age of 26 to marry astronomer S. C. B (Ben) Gascoigne, later to become an eminent professor, and set up home in the isolated scientific community of Mount Stromlo.


During the many lonely years spent raising her three children, she found solace by making natural assemblages, first via traditional flower arranging, later with the rigorous Japanese art form Sogetsu Ikebana. Her work in this medium was outstanding, earning praise from Japanese master, and founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, Sofu Teshigahara.[1] Nevertheless, by the late 1960s she had become dissatisfied with such limitations, and started experimenting first with small scrap iron sculptures and later wooden boxed assemblages, all composed of materials she found while on scavenging expeditions in theAlthough the fierce, sunburnt landscape of Australia was initially a shocking change from the damp green hills of her familiar New Zealand, by this time she had come to love the "boundless space and solitude" of her new home. Much of her art reflects this, though some also harks back to her roots in New Zealand.

Themes and influences[edit]

She said that her art-making materials "need to have been open to the weather." She thus used mostly found materials: wood, iron, wire, feathers, and yellow and orange retro-reflective road signs, which flash and glow in the light. Some of her other best-known works use faded, once-bright drinks crates; thinly-sliced yellow Schweppes boxes; ragged domestic items such as torn floral lino and patchy enamelware; vernacular building materials such as galvanised tin, corrugated iron and masonite; and fibrous, rosy cable reel ends. These objects represent, rather than accurately depict, elements of her world. "The countryside's discards ... no longer suggest themselves but evoke experiences, particularly of landscape." (V. MacDonald, "Rosalie Gascoigne").

Text is another important element of her work; she would cut up and rearrange the faded, naive lettering found on these items to create abstract yet evocative grids of letters and word fragments, sometimes alluding to the crosswords and poetry of which she was so fond. Knowledgeable and widely read, she was inspired amongst others by the artists Colin McCahon, Ken Whisson, Dick Watkins and Robert Rauschenberg, and the poets William Wordsworth, Peter Porter and Sylvia Plath. She also had a fondness for the pronouncements of Pablo Picasso. However gradually both colour and text seemed to fade from her work, and in her final years she created meditative, elegiac compositions of white or earth-brown panels.

Although working vigorously into her 80s, with occasional help from an assistant, her age at the height of her success precluded the travelling that would have been necessary to build the international audience her work deserved. Although she exhibited occasionally overseas - including the 1982 Venice Biennale (the first Australian woman to do so), Switzerland and Sweden as well as throughout Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan amongst others), - the major holdings of her work remain in Australia and New Zealand, both of which claim her as their own. Fine examples of Gascoigne's oeuvre can be found in most Antipodean galleries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, owns one of her smaller pieces.

She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 1994, for services to art, particularly sculpture.[2]

She died in Canberra in 1999 from a heart attack. Ben Gascoigne died 11 years later.

Major collections[edit]



  1. ^ MacDonald (1998), p. 21.
  2. ^ It's an Honour
  3. ^ a b c d White, Judith (Jan–Mar 2000). "Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)". Australian Art Collector (11). 
  4. ^ a b c d e MacDonald (1998), p. 108.
  5. ^ "Rosalie Gascoigne, Earth no. 7 1999". Collection search. National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Rosalie GASCOIGNE". NGV Collection. National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Rosalie Gascoigne Lamp lit 1989". Collection. Queensland Art Gallery. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 


Further reading[edit]

The most comprehensive book on her work to date is MacDonald's monograph "Rosalie Gascoigne". The most substantial exhibition catalogue is "From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne" containing memoirs and correspondence from her husband, son and studio assistants.

  • Mary Eagle, ed. (2000) From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne, Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery, exhibition catalogue. ISBN 0-7315-2830-1
  • Gregory O'Brien (2004) Rosalie Gascoigne: Plain Air, City Gallery Wellington, Victoria University Press. ISBN 0-86473-472-7
  • Deborah Edwards (1998) Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales. ISBN 0-646-33956-7

External links[edit]