Painter & Printmaker
Born at Thames Ditton, England, the daughter of Joseph Syme (q.v.) and Laura née Blair (d 1944); her father’s wealth generated from her grandfather’s share of The Age newspaper allowed for a privileged but independent life and she never married. Her education at Newnham College, Cambridge (MA, 1914) and University of Melbourne (Dip.Ed, 1914) suggests an earlier career as a teacher (1915-21), but little is known. Instead, Syme forged a name in the art scene as one of the pioneering women artists in the 1920s and ’30s; she studied at the La Grande Chavmiére, Paris (1922-23), Grosvenor School of Modern Art, London (1929) where her lifelong friend Ethel Spowers (1890-1947) was also a pupil and later at Académie Lhote (1929-30), Paris before her return to Australia.
One of her first exhibitions of watercolours held at Queen’s Hall (Sep-Oct 1925) heralded her coming as an artist; reviewers both praised and criticised her works equally notably The Age critic who reported – “All very good, but in many cases, not carried far enough”. After her return to Australia in 1930 her art began to reflect the modernist style with influence of Cubism. A councillor of the Women’s College (Melbourne University) from its inception until her death, Syme was also prominent in the formation of the Contemporary Art Society (1938) and exhibited in the inaugural exhibition held the following year.
Residing at 202 Orrong Road, Toorak, she died on 6 June 1961 after a long illness. A major exhibition of her works was held at Jim Alexander Gallery, Melbourne in 1988.
“A Biographical Register 1788-1939” (Vol II).
Robb, G & Smith, E., “Concise Dictionary of Australian Artists” (1993).
McCulloch, A., “The Encyclopedia of Australian Art” (1994).
The Age 22 September 1925.
The Argus 22 September 1925.
The Herald 7 June 1961.
The Age 8 & 10 June 1961.
The Sun 9 June 1961.