The purpose of this paper is to explore the professional biography of Ethel A. Stephens, examining her career as an artist and a teacher in Sydney between 1890 and 1920. Accounts of (both male and female) artists in this period often dismiss their teaching as just a means to pay the bills. This paper focuses attention on Stephens’ teaching and considers how this, combined with her artistic practice, influenced her students.
Using a fragmentary record of a successful female artist and teacher, this paper considers the role of art education and a career in the arts for respectable middle-class women.
Stephens’ actions and experiences show the ways she negotiated between the public and private sphere. Close examination of her “at home” exhibitions demonstrates one way in which these worlds came together as sites, enabling her to identify as an artist, a teacher and as a respectable middle-class woman.
This paper offers insight into the ways women negotiated the Sydney art scene and found opportunities for art education outside of the established modes.
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