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Jean Bellette

In their own words

Recorded 1976

Jean Bellette
Audio: 2 minutes

We came back to Sydney just before war broke out and [were] very glad to be home at last; although the travelling had been magnificent, it did not give so much time for really trying to make worthwhile paintings, one was so involved in study always. A lot of other painters came back at the same time, so it was a very lively group, not by any means each one in agreement with the other, we had fantastic arguments about the why and wherefore of various theories. Everybody had to somehow earn their living, and it was rather a scramble but we did have a generous atmosphere amongst ourselves which perhaps doesn’t exist in the same way today. When anybody did a good painting, whether you were a rival or not, or somebody was really not quite one’s friend, everybody went to look at the painting if everybody had come to the conclusion it was a very good painting. We regarded ourselves as a kind of brotherhood, sisterhood if you like, and watched each other with great attention and were glad when anybody got on better because it helped everybody else to get on better.

Our friend Peter Bellew became art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. I think then he had to do some naval work or other and could not go on with the art criticism so they asked my husband whether he would like to try his hand at writing art criticism for the paper. He immediately said, ‘Oh, why don’t you have my wife as art critic because she speaks the language and does write’, and the Herald said very charmingly and politely that they were not in the habit of employing women in this function as a critic, and couldn’t contemplate the idea.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Jean Bellette is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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Jean Bellette

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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