Rosalie Gascoigne

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Rosalie Gascoigne

Born(1917-01-25)25 January 1917
Auckland, New Zealand
Died25 October 1999(1999-10-25) (aged 82)
Canberra, Australia
Known forAssemblage, sculpture
Notable workEarth (1999)
AwardsExhibited, Venice Biennale 1982
Order of Australia 1994

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


Gascoigne was born Rosalie Norah King Walker in Auckland, New Zealand, on 25 January 1917. She was the second of the three children of Stanley and Marion King Walker.[1][2][3] She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Auckland University College in 1937.[4] She emigrated to Canberra, Australia in 1943 where she married astronomer S. C. B (Ben) Gascoigne whom she had met at Auckland University.[3] They set up home in the isolated scientific community of Mount Stromlo.[1][2] She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 1994, for services to art, particularly sculpture.[3][5] She died on 25 October 1999 at the John James Hospital in Canberra.[2][3]


During the many lonely years spent raising her three children, Gascoigne found solace by making natural assemblages first via traditional flower arranging then later with the rigorous Japanese art form Sogetsu Ikebana.[2][3] Her work in this medium was outstanding, earning praise from Japanese master and founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, Sofu Teshigahara.[6] Nevertheless, by the late 1960s, she had become dissatisfied with the limitations of the medium 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 the fierce, sunburnt landscape of Australia. While the Australian landscape 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.[3]

Themes and influences[edit]

She said that her art-making materials "need to have been open to the weather."[7] She thus used mostly found materials: wood, iron, wire, feathers,[8] 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."[7]

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.[9] 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.[7]

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 owns one of her smaller pieces.[7]

Major collections[edit]

Museum City Country
Art Gallery of Ballarat[4] Ballarat Australia
Art Gallery of New South Wales[10] Sydney, New South Wales Australia
Art Gallery of South Australia[11] North Terrace, Adelaide Australia
Art Gallery of Western Australia[10] Perth, Western Australia Australia
Artbank[11] Sydney Australia
Geelong Art Gallery[11] Geelong, Victoria Australia
Latrobe Regional Gallery[10] Latrobe, Melbourne Australia
Metropolitan Museum of Art[10] New York United States
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia[11] Sydney Australia
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa[11] Wellington New Zealand
National Gallery of Australia[12] Canberra Australia
National Gallery of Victoria[13] Melbourne, Victoria Australia
Newcastle Art Gallery[14] Newcastle, New South Wales Australia
Queensland Art Gallery[15] Brisbane, Queensland Australia


  1. ^ a b "Artist Profile". Art Gallery of NSW. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Hossack, Rebecca (1 November 1999). "Obituary: Rosalie Gascogne". The Independent. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Francis, Niki (14 February 2013). "Gascoigne, Rosalie Norah King (1917 - 1999)". The Australian Women's Register. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Artist Profile". Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  5. ^ "It's an Honour". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  6. ^ MacDonald (1998), p. 21.
  7. ^ a b c d MacDonald, Vici (1997). Rosalie Gascoigne. Sydney: Regaro. ISBN 0646347888.
  8. ^ See photograph of her work of art (1978), Canberra Times 29th nov 2019 Rosalie Gascoigne : Creating a new natural order by Sacha Grishin [1]
  9. ^ For instance her artwork Sky-light,0 [2]
  10. ^ a b c d White, Judith (January–March 2000). "Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)". Australian Art Collector (11).
  11. ^ a b c d e MacDonald (1998), p. 108.
  12. ^ "Rosalie Gascoigne, Earth no. 7 1999". Collection search. National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  13. ^ "Rosalie GASCOIGNE". NGV Collection. National Gallery of Victoria. Archived from the original on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  14. ^ "Newcastle Art Gallery - collection - collecting-areas -sculpture". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  15. ^ "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 Martin Gascoigne's "Rosalie Gascoigne: A catalogue raisonné", available to download for free at The most substantial exhibition catalogues are "From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne" containing memoirs and correspondence from her husband, son and studio assistants, and Kelly Gellatly's "Rosalie Gascoigne". The Australian Biography website has an extensive interview (video and text).

  • Martin Gascoigne (2019) "Rosalie Gascoigne: A catalogue raisonné", ANU Press, Acton, ACT, Australia ISBN 9781760462345(print); ISBN (online): ISBN 9781760462352(online)
  • Vici MacDonald (1998) "Rosalie Gascoigne", Regaro Press, Sydney ISBN 0-646-34788-8
  • Mary Eagle, ed. (2000) From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne, Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery, exhibition catalogue. ISBN 0-7315-2830-1
  • › subjects › gascoigne › bio
  • Mary Eagle (1985) "Rosalie Gascoigne New Work",,_1985_Final.pdf
  • Kelly Gellatly (2008) "Rosalie Gascoigne" National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne ISBN 9780724103027(pbk)
  • 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]