A Still Life and a Recipe

In this novel Reflection on a still life by Elma Roach featuring pomegranates, Peter Perry, previous Director of CAM (1975-2014), writes about the artist while his son Alexander Perry, renowned Castlemaine chef, creates and shares a pomegranate recipe. Here CAM celebrates two outstanding features of our region: the art and the cuisine.

Pomegranate trees are found in many established gardens across Central Victoria planted one imagines, for their beauty rather than for their fruit. In his note about the recipe Alexander writes, "I have put together a cake recipe using pomegranate and pear, two fruits which grow abundantly around Central Victoria and are often left neglected in front lawns."

Elma Roach, Still Life - Pomegranates and Jug, c.1935, oil on canvas, Castlemaine Art Museum. Purchased with funds from John Northen and Victor Stafford 2008. Image: Ian Hill.

Perry on Roach

Born in Shepparton on 30 March 1897, Elma Roach was the granddaughter of colonial watercolour artist Wilbraham Liardet (1799 - 1878). Roach attended the Melbourne National Gallery Art School, firstly in the Drawing School from 1913 to 1916 under Fred McCubbin and W.B.McInnes and then in the School of Painting from the second term in 1916 to 1921 under the head of the Painting School, L.Bernard Hall. At this period she became a close friend of fellow student Madge Freeman (1895 - 1977). She was also taught painting in watercolour privately by M.J. MacNally (1874 - 1943).

In May 1923 Roach and Freeman held their first joint exhibition of watercolours at the Fine Art Society’s Galleries, Melbourne and in January 1924 sailed for England, settling in Chelsea and briefly attended the Slade School under Henry Tonks. They shared flats in London and Paris and travelled and painted throughout France,Italy,Spain and North Africa.

While in Paris, Roach and Freeman made contact with Adolphe Milich (1884 - 1964), a French painter and teacher, born in Poland. He was a member of the school of Paris, and worked in oils and watercolours painting landscapes, still life, figure compositions and portraits. His principal influence was that of Cézanne and this influence had a strong influence on Roach as his teacher for several years.

During this period in Europe, Roach would send her work back to Australia, exhibiting with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, The Independent Group and at Melbourne commercial galleries. She returned to Melbourne in 1936 and was an exhibitor with the Australian Academy of Art in 1938, and in group exhibitions in 1941 and 1942 at The Macquarie Galleries in Sydney.

She died in 1942 from cancer at the age of 45 years. A memorial exhibition of 49 works was held at the Athenaeum Gallery Melbourne in March 1943 where three works (two oil paintings and one watercolour) were purchased by the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum. She is also represented in public collections at The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery and Broken Hill Art Gallery.

Peter Perry
May 2021

Pear, Buckwheat and Pomegranate Cake. Image Alexander Perry.

Alexander Perry's Pear, Buckwheat and Pomegranate Cake


4 x Peeled and quartered Pears

170g x Ground Almond Meal (lightly toasted)

170g x Butter (diced, at room temperature)

180g x Castor Sugar

1 tsp x Vanilla Essence

1/2 tsp x Salt

130g x Buckwheat Flour

5 x Eggs

1 x Pomegranate (seeds removed)

6tbsp x Pomegranate Molasses

Crème Fraiche (to serve)


Line a 9” Springform tin with baking paper and preheat your oven to 180°C.

Toast the almond meal until it becomes slightly brown – let it cool while preparing other ingredients.

Cream butter and sugar until pale, add egg yolks one at a time, then add vanilla and salt. Fold in buckwheat flour and almond meal.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, the gently fold through the creamed mixture.

Place pear slices on the bottom of your lined tin, pour batter over the top and place in an oven for around 50 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean).

When the cake has cooled, upturn it onto a plate, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and scatter pomegranate seeds on top. Serve with Crème Fraiche.

Alexander Perry
May 2021

Peter Perry
Fine Art Valuer and Assessor based in Castlemaine, Peter Perry was Director of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum (as it was then known) from 1975 until 2014. His publications include R W Sturgess Watercolourist 1892–1932 (co-author Beth Sinclair) 1986; Max Meldrum & Associates, Their Art, Lives and Influences (co-author John Perry) 1996; A M E Bale Her Art and Life 2011 and Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum History & Collections (co-authors Kirsten McKay and David Golightly) 2013.

Alexander Perry
Castlemaine chef and proprietor Alexander Perry's current venture Bar Midland opened in 2021. Bar Midland is set in the original dining room of 1872 The Midland Hotel, Castlemaine. It offers an ethically responsible menu from food and beverages exclusively produced in Victoria, and all producers that we use will fall into the categories of Organic, Bio-Dynamic or the myriad of Regenerate Farming practices.

Womindjika Woorineen willam bit
Willam Dja Dja Wurrung Balug
Wokuk mung gole-bo-turoi
talkoop mooroopook

Welcome to our homeland,
home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people
we offer you people good spirit.
Uncle Rick Nelson

The Jaara people of the Dja Dja Wurrung are the Custodians of the land and waters on which we live and work. We pay our respects to the Elders past, present and emerging. We extend these same sentiments to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations peoples.

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