Beginning in 1961, the Low Show Group was an active collective of women artists, exhibiting in Newcastle. The group members were Norma Allen, Mary Beeston, Betty Cutcher (Beadle), Elizabeth Martin, Lillian Sutherland and Rae Richards. Madeleine Scott Jones and Lovoni Webb also exhibited in later Low Show Group exhibitions. These artists continued to work independently and Richards is still making and exhibiting art. This study examines the context in which the group was formed and how this impacted on their decision to form a collective. Their contribution to art and craft, art education and the cultural life of Newcastle is documented through their exhibitions and careers. The theories of Howard Becker regarding art as a collective action, is used as a framework to examine the success of the Low Show group. Through a discussion of shared and individual careers as practitioners, their community service and their role as teachers, their influence is shown on the artistic practices of their students and colleagues and on the art world of their time. Newcastle’s background as a convict settlement and an industrial centre had developed a working class culture with a strong masculine influence. While some individual women artists were able to develop a career in fine arts, there was a long battle to establish a city art gallery and in 1961 there were no commercial galleries. The formation of the Low Show Group is shown to be as much about the society in which they lived as their artistic ambitions. The development of the Newcastle Technical Art School, and the formation of the Newcastle University College, was identified as the catalyst for the initial flowering of fine art. The experience of the Low Show artists first as students of this school, and in some cases as teachers, was the impetus for their desire to develop careers as professional artists. This evaluation of their contribution to the fine arts indicates how the contribution of this regional group of artists was important in paving the way for the present growth and a promising future of the fine arts in Newcastle.
University of Newcastle Research Higher Degree Thesis