Ethel Anderson

(16 March 1883 – 4 August 1958 / Warwickshire / England)

Biography of Ethel Anderson

Ethel Anderson poet

Ethel Anderson (née Campbell) (16 March 1883 – 4 August 1958) was an early twentieth century Australian poetess, essayist, novelist and painter. She considered herself to be mainly a poet, but is now best appreciated for her witty and ironic stories. Anderson has been described as "a high-profile author, artist, art commentator and emissary for modernism."

Life

Ethel Anderson was born in Leamington, in Warwickshire, England of Australian parents. Her family soon moved back to Australia and she grew up in Sydney and at Rangamatty, near Picton, New South Wales. She was educated at the Church of England Girls' Grammar School in Sydney. In 1904 she married Brigadier-General Austin Anderson in Bombay where she had accompanied him on his posting. In 1907 they had a daughter.

At the beginning of World War I her husband was posted to France and Anderson moved to Cambridge, England, where she studied drawing at Downing College and exhibited some of her work. They later lived in Worcestershire, and on her husband's retirement from the army in 1924 the family moved to Turramurra, New South Wales, and Brigadier Anderson became secretary to several State Governors.

In Turramurra, Ethel Anderson founded the Turramurra Wall Painters Union in 1927 and associated with contemporary artists such as Roy de Maistre and Grace Cossington Smith. An exhibition of Roland Wakelin's work was held at her home. She was asked by the rector of St James' Church, Sydney to help decorate the Children's Chapel and designed a mural scheme for it which was executed by the group in 1929. On 16 March 1932, she opened the inaugural exhibition of the Modern Art Centre established by Dorrit Black in Margaret Street, Sydney, to teach and promote the Cubist ideas learned during Black's study trip to France. Anderson also wrote about contemporary artists' work for magazines such as Art in Australia and Home, while her poetry and stories were published in The Spectator, Punch, the Cornhill Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Bulletin. Her poetry was influenced by her knowledge of French literature and Modernist work, with considerable formal and metrical experimentation. Her poem The Song of Hagar was set to music by John Antill.

The death of her husband in 1949 meant that she had to support herself, which she did through her writing, serialising her first novel At Parramatta in The Bulletin. She died on 4 August 1958 in Sydney.

Ethel Anderson's Works:

Poetry

Squatter's Luck and Other Poems (1942)
Sunday At Yarralumla: A Symphony (1947)
The Song of Hagar to the Patriarch Abraham (1957)

Non-fiction

Adventures In Appleshire (1944)
Timeless Garden (1945)
Joy of Youth: The Letters of Patrick Hore-Ruthven (1950, ed.)

Fiction

Indian Tales (1948)
At Parramatta (1956)
The Little Ghosts (1959)
The Best of Ethel Anderson (1973, ed. by J.D. Pringle)

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