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Geoffrey Mainwaring

1912 – 2000

Geoffrey Mainwaring studied at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts before spending eight years teaching art at Thebarton Technical School. He joined the army in mid-1941 and in late 1942 he was sent to New Guinea as an Australian army artist on probation. Facing various logistical problems, and finding the jungle ‘foul and eerie’, he also found it difficult to see any active combat to depict, but he managed to document the surrender and its repercussions on Bougainville, Nauru and Ocean Island, and victory parade scenes in England in 1946. Having completed his war work in 1948, in 1949 he was appointed head of the art school at the Ballarat School of Mines (now the University of Ballarat). Teaching there until 1975, he continued to paint commissioned portraits for the Australian War Memorial until the late 1950s, and henceforth maintained his own art practice, completing many portraits, nudes and industrial landscapes in pencil, oil and watercolour. More than 160 of his works are in the Australian War Memorial.

While most images of Roma Mitchell show her as the extraordinary person she became with age, this one is of particular interest as a fine portrait of her in her youth, full of promise and determination. It makes a strong addition to the Gallery’s relatively small collection of pastel portraits.

Updated 2019