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Lady Knox
, c. 1927-29

by W B McInnes

oil on canvas (frame: 130.0 cm x 111.0 cm, support: 109.0 cm x 89.5 cm)

Edith Knox (1855-1942), matriarch, was a daughter of Scottish-born merchant and businessman Joseph Scaife Willis, who was president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce and a founding director of the Sydney Exchange Co. Born in Sydney, Edith grew up in a house called Greycliffe on the eastern tip of Rose Bay. She married Edward Knox in 1878. Five years later they moved into Rona, which was destined to be home to five generations of the family. Ned and Edith Knox had four daughters. One of their granddaughters, Helen, married her mother's second cousin, Thomas Rutledge, in 1935, and they went to live at Gidleigh, a property near Bungendore, NSW. In 1978, leaving Gidleigh in the hands of her son, Helen Rutledge returned to live at Rona. In her family history, My Grandfather's House (1986), she writes that pictures of her grandmother 'do not do her justice; in most of them she looks sad or stern . . . she did not smile much with her mouth, but she did with her lovely eyes.'

William Beckwith (Bill) McInnes studied at the National Gallery of Victoria School and later undertook study tours of Europe and the UK. He taught drawing at the NGV School from 1917 to 1934 and was its Head from 1934 to 1939. In 1935 and 1936 he acted as director of the National Gallery of VIctoria. Beginning in 1921, McInnes won five of the first six Archibald Prizes, writing in defence of his conservative work that 'in Australia we have not been bitten by Cubism or Futurism or other isms . . . and I am glad of it.' He was to win the prize twice more, in 1930 and 1936. Sir William Dargie was the only artist to win more times than McInnes; Dargie employed a style similar to McInnes's, of optical realism based on tonal values, which had been handed down from Bernard Hall, McInnes's teacher, via Max Meldrum to Archibald Colquhoun, Dargie's teacher. In 1927 McInnes was commissioned, with Septimus Power, to paint the opening of Federal Parliament by HRH the Duke of York.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Caroline Philippa Parker 2005
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2005.102