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Video clip synopsis – Violet Teague and Jessie Traill were part of a remarkable group of independent women who, in the early 20th century, were able to devote their lives to art.
Year of production - 2006
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - art, artists, Betty Churcher, conservation, preservation, women, see all tags


Violet Teague & Jessie Traill

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About the Video Clip


Violet Teague & Jessie Traill is an episode of the series Hidden Treasures (15 × 5 mins) produced in 2006.

The National Gallery of Australia has more than 100,000 works in its collection—an extraordinary reservoir of creative vision and cultural history, from decorative arts to photography and sculpture.

Yet on a visit to the gallery, you’ll see only the tip of this iceberg. Carefully stored away are the things that can’t be placed on permanent display.

These unseen gems include works of exquisite fragility, from brilliant hand-painted fabrics to delicate works on paper. From Australia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, there are masks and carvings, lithographs and linocuts, set designs and stage costumes, sketchpads and handprinted books, marionettes and maquettes, teapots and textiles, and much, much more.

Now in this series of micro-docs, former director of the gallery Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of these 'hidden treasures’.

In the entertaining, accessible style for which she is renowned, Betty Churcher takes us behind the scenes, sharing with us her passion and insights. From her unique vantage point, she makes intriguing connections between a range of different objects and artists, linking them to the stories that surround them.

These are fascinating tales—about the works themselves, the people who created them and the challenge of preserving them—and a tantalising look at some of the ideas and influences that have shaped modern art across the globe.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Full program credits

Curriculum Focus


Outcome 1
Students should be able to develop a design process including visual research and inquiry to produce a variety of design explorations and a number of artworks.

Outcome 2
Students should be able to analyse and discuss the ways in which artists from different times and locations have created aesthetic qualities in artworks, communicated ideas and developed styles.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


During the first two decades of the 20th century there was a spirit of emancipation among Australian women. Many now saw art as a viable career, enrolling in art schools across the country.

Violet Teague and her friend Jessie Traill were part of a remarkable group of financially independent, middle-class women who never married, allowing them to devote their lives to art. From an early age both women travelled regularly overseas, which put them in touch with international trends.

Jessie Traill’s hand-coloured aquatint The Red Light, Harbour Bridge, June 1931 shifts the emphasis of etching from the intimate to the dramatic. It owes more to the etching revival in Europe than the brightly coloured wood and lino block prints popular in Australia in the 1930s.

Violet Teague’s handprinted children’s book Nightfall in the Ti-Tree, which she made with Geraldine Rede in 1905, uses handmade recycled paper made to look like Japanese mulberry paper and Japanese methods of binding and applying water-based ink with a brush. Even the asymmetrical placement of objects on the page is Japanese.

In 1920, Teague’s portrait The Boy with the Palette was exhibited in the Paris Salon, where it won a silver medal, and in the following year it attracted acclaim at an exhibition at the Royal Academy of London. It’s a splendid painting, equal to any portrait painted in Australia before World War One, and Traill’s etchings too hold their own. So why are both artists seldom mentioned in the story of Australian art?

Perhaps because they were women, but more likely because Teague interrupted her career to look after an ailing father. And also because the independence of both women enabled them regular trips abroad, which meant they were more in touch with artists and art movements there than at home.

Classroom Activities

  1. Research and discuss how the era in which both Jessie Traill and Violet Teague lived influenced and inspired their artworks.
  2. Discuss the conservation and preservation methods required for prints. Consider types of paper, framing, lighting, environmental conditions, handling and storage.
  3. Compare and contrast Jessie Traill’s and Violet Teague’s prints. For example, do they share any qualities or visual styles?
  4. Look at the techniques and materials used by printmakers, then create a multi-coloured woodcut or lino print. Consider the balance of light and dark within the composition.
  5. Create a print using the intaglio method, which will result in an almost painterly quality. This may be achieved using metal or acetate plates.
  6. Using appropriate graphics software, create images utilising variable exposures and continuous tonal images to reproduce the positive image in a number of steps. Transfer to printing blocks.

Further Resources


K. McKay, Women Printmakers 1910 to 1940, Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum, 1995

The Printmakers: Mainly of the Thirties, Important Women Artists, Melbourne, 1977

Works by Jessie Traill (1881–1967), Important Women Artists, Melbourne, 1977

D. Saff and D. Sacilotto, Printmaking: History and Process, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, Orlando, Florida, 1978

National Gallery of Australia, Federation, Australian Art and Society 1901–2001: Jessie Traill

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Violet Teague

Coskun Fine Art: collecting prints