Joy St Clair Hester, or Joy Hester, was born 12th August in 1920 in Elsternick, Melbourne. Hester was an Australian artist during a time period where the work she produced was exceptionally unappreciated. After dying of cancer at age 40 (4th December 1960) she has become acknowledged. Hester’s work particularly is largely made up of human faces. Hester’s “Girl” and “Cancelled Sketch of Pauline McCarthy” display the use of human faces and her artistic style.
Joy Hester’s father, Robert Ferdinand Hester, was a bank officer and her mother, Louise May nee Bracher, was a school teacher. She grew up in Melbourne during a dramatic and traumatic time period. She experienced times of war (World War II), the Great Depression, the introduction of Aboriginal rights in Australia (Stolen Generation) and the on-going gain of women’s right and feminism. During this time, change was brought about throughout Australia. The war meant that women became the source of help and had to take up jobs to support their family. Women were forced into different and new roles to keep everything going strong for when the men came back from war. This saw a rise in women’s rights and feminism (movements and ideologies aimed at establishing equal political, economical and social rights for women). This would have affected her artworks as she may have reflected on the struggle women went through during these tough periods. The Great Depression would have affected Hester’s childhood as would have become an influence on her arts works as she may have recalled events and based her subject’s (people in her artworks) emotions on the ones she felt in the times of depression and need.
During the 1940s, Hester painted many portraits of the human face and often dealt with raw emotion she saw on the faced of those she saw suffering in Germany during Hitler’s reign. During this time, Hester was closely associated with the Angry Penguins – a modernist literary and artistic movement that sought to shake up the rooted art establishment in Australia – but did not receive the same amount of praise as her peers within the Angry Penguins (Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Max Harris and John Perceval). The support she received in the Angry Penguins and in some parts of the art society gave her a confidence boost and some inspiration.
Albert Tucker and Hester married in 1941. Tucker was a successful artist, but Hester still needed to find an audience that appreciated her work. Hester favoured the media of brush and ink, and because of this unusual choice, it set her apart from her colleagues. It also enabled her to develop many skills throughout her brief career, but drawing was not valued as highly as other media like oil paintings and was seen as introductory to a finished piece. Her methods of working (which consisted of sitting on the floor and speedily producing her pieces) were seen as something more casual, as though she was more of a casual artist than a serious professional artist. Hester was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1947 after seeming unhappy with Tucker. After the diagnosis, she left Tucker and her young son. She soon moved to Sydney with Gray Smith and during these years she created some of her best artworks like “Love”. The couple moved back to Melbourne and Hester gave birth to Peregine and Fern, despite being told there would be complications to her health and well being. Hester married Smith, after finding out that her friends, John and Sunday Reed, had adopted her son with Tucker. Not long after, Hester died from Hodgkin’s disease.
Hester’s artwork “Cancelled Sketch of Pauline McCarthy” is a painting of a girl’s face in a dark room with a doorway in the background. In the foreground is a girl, presumably Pauline McCarthy, with a sorrowful facial expression. The girl has facial features (eyebrows, eyes, nose and mouth) that are black in colour. Hester has used a really light grey as her skin tone. The girl’s hair...
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