Joy Hester was a major contributor to the Melbourne modernist movement which is pivotal to the development of Australian visual culture. While some of its momentum arose through patrons like John and Sunday Reed, it's wider influence depended on each artists visual response to shifting values and social conditions of the time. In Hester's example, she was willing to convey strong and heartfelt emotion through direct application of ink, watercolour, and pastel. Her subjects were frequently women, often in love, endangered in some way, perhaps vulnerable for feeling pain or joy. There was an extended period in Australian history where such expressions were actively discouraged. Working class women were forced to tolerate harsh conditions and often responded by suppressing their own needs in favour of maintaining their right to survive in a male dominated world. Skillfully portrayed, Hester's female lovers still remind us that tenderness is distinct from weakness and requires courage to uphold. Auction estimate AU $20,000 - $30,000.
This ink and wash sketch conveys an uncertain mood that's characteristic of Joy Hester's work. Clasping a shapeless doll to her chest, a child's introverted gaze contrasts with her inanimate companion, whose eyes focus forward to command the viewer's attention. It's a push and pull relationship which lends this overtly simple work such expressive force. Executed in 1948, it's possible this child's slightly haunted eyes have something to say about the horrors of war. Not directly perhaps, but through relationships within a society struggling to repair itself. Joy Hester was an important contributor to the modernist group which centred around the patronage of John and Sunday Reed. The Auction estimate (Aus $7,000-10,000).
Price realised at auction: Aus $9,818. 18 Hammer Price + BP