Jane Sutherland (1853-1928)
Malayan or Indonesian tapir (Acrocodia indica)
Signed with initials upper left and signed J. Sutherland at the reverse
Oil on board, H. 61 x W. 101.5 cm
Jane Sutherland was an Australian painter of mainly landscapes, member and ‘grande dame’ of the Heidelberg School in Melbourne, and part of the pioneering plein-air movement in Australia.
She emigrated with her parents to Sidney in 1864 and the family moved on to Melbourne in 1870. Thanks to the support and encouragement of her parents Jane was able to pursue a career as an artist, and to live comfortably as an unmarried, working women. In 1871 she enrolled in the National Gallery School. Between 1878 and 1911, as one of the first women artists in Australia, she had several exhibitions at the Victoria Academy of Arts, the Australian Artists’ Association, and the Victoria Artists’ Society. Jane Sutherland was a leading female artist in the Heidelberg School of painters, working outside the studio. Due to a serious stroke in the early 1900s, she was only able to continue painting with the help of her brother William, but the impact of her illness can be seen in the diminishing size of her work, from large oil paintings to small pastels.
After William’s death in 1911, Jane was unable to work any longer and was gradually forgotten, until 1975 when the exhibition Australian Women Artists; One Hundred Years 1840-1940 was held in the Ewing and George Paton Galleries of the University of Melbourne. Nowadays Jane Sutherland’s work can be seen in many of the major Art Galleries of Australia.
October 6, 1862, the first Australian Zoo was opened in Melbourne; initially mainly for the acclimatisation of domestic animals recovering after their long trip to Australia. Only after 1870 more exotic animals were procured for public display. Although it is unknown when the first Malayan Tapir arrived in the Zoo, Jane Sutherland must undoubtedly have seen the Malayan Tapir and painted it in the Melbourne Zoo, sometime between circa 1880 and 1900.