Vida Lahey / Australia 1882–1968 / Monday morning 1912 / Oil on canvas / 153 x 122.7cm / Gift of Madame Emily Coungeau through the Queensland Art Society 1912 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA

Vida Lahey
Monday morning 1912

On Display: QAG, Gallery 11

Monday morning 1912 launched Vida Lahey’s career when it was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Queensland Art Society, Brisbane, in 1912.

The painting shows in vivid colour and detail two women doing the weekly wash with copper tubs and bar soap at the Lahey family home, Greylands, in Indooroopilly, Brisbane. Esme, a younger sister of the artist, was the model for the woman at the washtub. The other woman is Flora Campbell, a family friend. The painting portrays ideas of femininity and feminism in a bygone era, when women’s lives were generally depicted in a more genteel fashion in Australian art and such hard labour went unacknowledged.

Monday morning follows the National Gallery of Victoria Art School tradition of the large narrative painting and, through its focus on atmospheric effects, shows the influence of Frederick McCubbin’s tutoring and his interest in Australian Impressionism. Students were encouraged to produce a large narrative painting to compete for the school’s triennial travelling art scholarship. This outstanding painting is Lahey’s only surviving large-scale work of the period.

Vida Lahey was born at Pimpama, near the Gold Coast, Queensland. Her first known paintings date from 1902. She studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne under Frederick McCubbin and Bernard Hall, and privately with Walter Withers. She also studied in Europe, but always returned to Brisbane where she lived and painted for most of her life.

Lahey was one of a new breed of artist — the trained professional who superseded the Victorian tradition of the genteel lady amateur. She exhibited more than 2000 paintings in about 200 exhibitions, many of them interstate and overseas.

Lahey advocated creative development as a priority in art education and was a pioneer of art education for children. Thousands of Queenslanders owe their art education to this dynamic woman, from her time teaching at the Brisbane High School for Girls (now Somerville House), her private tuition and classes at the Queensland Art Gallery, and her public lectures and broadcasts.

Discussion Questions

1. What does this painting tell us about the roles of women in Brisbane in the early 1900s? What does the title of the painting tell you?

2. What do you think the women would have seen outside their laundry window?

3. This painting depicts Vida Lahey’s sister and friend. Why is the work not classified as a portrait?