On Display: QAG, Gallery 12
Leisure moments 1902 is an intimate portrayal of AME Bale’s lifestyle at a time when she was studying at the National Gallery School in Melbourne with fellow student Violet Bowes-Kelly. The pair, who both studied under Rupert Bunny, are said to be two of the three figures portrayed in the interior of Bale’s studio in Kew, Melbourne.
By composing her subjects as figures occupied within the scene, rather than passive forms looking outward toward the viewer, Bale illustrates a moment of leisure that is placed within the context of labour of an artist’s studio.
Alice Marian Ellen Bale was born in Melbourne in 1875. Early in her studies Bale sought out training as an artist, taking private lessons with May Vale and Hugh Ramsay. She went on to study painting at the National Gallery of Victoria School under Bernard Hall and Frederick McCubbin between 1895 and 1905. She was opposed to modernism and advocated for the theories and teachings of her contemporary Max Meldrum.
She was a prominent member of the Victorian Artists Society and regular exhibitor with the Women’s Art Club (later the Melbourne Society of Women Painters). During the 1930s she occasionally exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and at the Old Paris Salon.
She bequeathed her family’s country retreat in Castlemaine to women artists painting in the Castlemaine district. Today the Bale scholarship, established from her estate of more than £46,000, has become one of Australia’s richest art prizes.
The above was adapted from:
McCulloch, Alan & McCulloch, Susan. ‘The Encyclopedia of Australian Art’. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1994, p.68.