Eliza Ashton was a fighter for women’s rights and on one occasion, together with Rose Scott and other suffragettes chained herself to the railings of the NSW Government House. Her husband, artist Julian Ashton, happened to be dining with the Governor, Lord Carrington that evening. Ashton’s fine portrait of Lord Carrington hangs to this day in Government house. Neither husband nor wife was aware of each other’s proximity that evening and related the story later with great amusement.
The present Governor of New South Wales Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC is a champion of the betterment of the lives of women and she has a great love of art. Her Excellency recently held a function at Government House honouring artist Charles Blackman, an occasion which was especially notable for the brave attendance of his old friend Margaret Olley. The Australian art world is since lamenting the passing of Margaret, who though frail, was still vital and painting in her eighty eighth year. Her generosity to the Art Gallery of New South Wales is legendary.
The long serving Director of the gallery Edmund Capon, who has steered that cultural icon for over thirty years, has recently announced his resignation. His rare vision and capacity to bring people together for important artistic endeavours will be sorely missed. Two great contributors to the Australian art world have signed off.