The QAGOMA Research Library’s current display features the largely forgotten Australian artist Loma Lautour in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Known for her versatility as an artist, her work ethic and her unconventional lifestyle, Lautour is an eccentric and engaging personality in Australian art history. Living a bohemian existence in Sydney’s artist community during the 1920s and 30s, she established herself as a talented sculptor, jeweller, modeller, printmaker and craft-worker.

Thought to be Loma Lautour and Deetje Andriesse in their Sydney studio c.1937 / Loma Lautour scrapbook 1935-53 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Loma Lautour c.1930s-40s / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Loma Lautour scrapbook 193553 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Loma Lautour draped in one of her embroidery pieces made of fine silver wire sewn, with coloured silks, c.1940s / Loma Lautour scrapbook 1935-53 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

Loma Kyle Turnbull was born in 1902 at Mellool Station, Moulamein, in the Riverina district of New South Wales. When her mother died the following year, Loma was sent to England to be raised by relatives. Following her return to Australia at the age of 12, she changed her surname to ‘Lautour’ after her maternal great-great-grandfather, General Peter Lautour.

At 24, Loma Lautour married Raymond Lindsay, the son of artist Norman Lindsay (1879–1969), and enrolled at the East Sydney Technical College, where she was taught by sculptor Rayner Hoff (1894–1937) and influenced by Jacob Epstein (1880–1959). After completing the course, she divided her time between exhibiting, teaching and adapting her skills to industrial arts, working for companies such as Mashman Bros Pottery at Chatswood in Sydney.

Loma Latour, Australia 1902-64 / Nirvana 1936 / Earthenware, modelled buff clay with clear glaze / 20 x 13.5 x 17cm / Gift of Mrs Violet M. Bennett 1994 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of the artist
Photograph of Untitled [Nude girl with hands behind her back] held in the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery Collection / Loma Lautour scrapbook 1935-53 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Loma Lautour with a selection of her modelling work during the 1930s. The bust second from the right, top shelf, is Les Suich, The Bulletin artist / Loma Lautour scrapbook 1935-53 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

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Although it was not common in Australia for artists to work for commercial potteries, Lautour was more pragmatic, stating: ‘Chameleons may live on air and poets on love and kisses . . . but artists – call us prosaic if you like – need something more substantial’ (Pix, 1 March 1941). She found that ‘there is a steady living in sculpture provided you do what employers ask . . . [and make] something which will appeal to the general public’ (Woman, 25 July 1938).

Despite working in various forms of the industrial arts to earn a living during the 1930s, Lautour also exhibited with the Society of Artists, the Royal Art Society and the Woman’s Industrial Society. In 1936, the Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased The Egoist c.1936, her glazed earthenware bust of George Bernard Shaw.

Loma Latour, Australia 1902-64 / Brooch 1951 / Silver wire, hand wrought and constructed / 3.3 x 6.2 x 1cm / Gift of Mrs Agnes Richardson 1996 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of the artist

After World War Two, and the death of her second husband, Lautour moved to Brisbane in 1950, where her jewellery-making brought her prominence. She exhibited with the Royal Queensland Art Society, the Half Dozen Group of Artists, and the Moreton Galleries; and well-known Brisbane antique dealer Cecilia McNally sold her distinctive, contemporary jewellery. Lautour bought a waterfront acreage on Stradbroke Island, where she lived until her death in 1964.

The Queensland Art Gallery purchased Loma Lautour’s undated sculpture, Negro head, in 1953, and holds two of her ceramic works and three pieces of jewellery.

Jacklyn Young, Librarian (Collections), QAGOMA

Join us at GOMA

A selection of pages from the Loma Lautour Scrapbook is on display in the QAGOMA Research Library until 29 May 2020. A digital copy of the entire scrapbook can be viewed onsite in the Library.

The QAGOMA Research Library is located on Level 3 of GOMA. Open to the public from Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm, visit us in person or explore the online catalogue. Access to special collections is by appointment. To contact the Library, call (07) 3842 9557.

Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

The Art+Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon is a global event that aims to address the under-representation of women, feminism and the arts on Wikipedia.

Join Dr Louise R Mayhew for a special communal workshop on International Women’s Day. Across this two hour session from 11.30am, you’ll learn how to create, update or edit Wikipedia pages on women artists, and contribute to the representation of women on the world’s most popular online research tool. Held in QAGOMA’s Research Library, you’ll have access to the extensive collection of art resources and knowledgeable Librarians to assist with your research and editing.

11.30am Sunday 8 March
QAGOMA Research Library, GOMA
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Feature image: Loma Lautour’s workshop, where she is seen with examples of her jewellery. Visible in the picture is the medal she made for Pope Pius IV / Loma Lautour scrapbook 1935-53 / Gift of Miss Celia McNally / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

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