Bathgate on Beckett

Welcoming visitors at reception is always a pleasure. In 2022, a quietly spoken visitor lingered a little longer than usual, afterward asking if CAM would be interested in her donating a Clarice Beckett painting. With astonishment, we agreed to meet Jill Bathgate and her donation is now on view in the Higgins Gallery.

Clarice Beckett's Bathing Box, c1929 joins Castlemaine Art Museum's remarkable collection of five Beckett works, ranging from 1923 to 1931.

Here, Jill Bathgate reflects upon the inspiration Beckett's painting played in her own remarkable life. We are grateful to the Bathgate family for their most generous donation.

Clarice Beckett, Bathing Box, c1929, oil on composition board.

Jill Bathgate on Clarice Beckett

Recently I donated this Clarice Beckett painting to the Castlemaine Art Museum. When asked to write a few words on the work my immediate feeling was to share that I wished Beckett’s painting to be enjoyed by all, into the future. On reflection, I also hope to highlight the need and dedication it took for women to express themselves in the male dominated art world of the early 1900s, and that this remains true to this day.

As a young family, we tended to move house frequently and this painting was one I enjoyed over the years in many of our homes. It gave me a sense of comfort each time we moved and enabled me to make a home surrounded by familiar objects. With six children and a husband in tow, all with their own needs, it’s a wonder this small painting wasn’t misplaced or vanished.

In the late 70s and 80s, I believe Clarice gave me the courage to pursue my own dream to work in a field that was under threat. This was the world of Traditional Healers. On reflection, I’m not sure how this relates to the painting – but while the small building is thought to be a bathing box – I have always felt it was a shed, hidden at the bottom of the garden. A touch of magic and mystery.

The painting was amongst other Clarice Beckett works discovered by Rosalind Hollinrake in a country garage in the early 70s. We lived in Canterbury, near Rosalind and our children attended primary school together. David, my husband for more than 60 years, attended an exhibition of these works held at Hollinrake’s home.

On seeing the painting for the first time and thereafter, the muted tones remind me of a life of sadness tinged with loneliness. Something hidden. A mystery of life.

Over time, the work became one of the things which gave me a sense of place and land after we moved to this country from New Zealand. It also seemed to support David and my vision of a more harmonious and peaceful world ruled by women. To keep on dancing. To keep on singing your song.

With a lifetime involvement in Mental Health, I believe being able to express feelings and experiences in a creative way is a path to healing.

It has been an important exercise to be able to donate this painting by Clarice Beckett to the Castlemaine Art Museum, so it can inspire others as it inspired our family.

Jill Bathgate

Jill Bathgate was born in 1939. She grew up in a small country town Te Awamutu in the North Island of New Zealand. In 1957, she began nursing at the Waikato Hospital in Hamilton where she met her husband David, a medical student. In 1963, the family relocated to Ballarat where David commenced training in psychiatry. In the 1980s, Jill returned to nursing at the Royal Women's Hospital before going into private practice as a therapist working mainly with women in trauma. At this time she also helped to set up ACES, an initiative of Aunty Iris Gardener with Aunty Fay Carter and others. She also trained as a body therapist and became a teaching associate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. In the 1990s, she and David worked in the Kimberley region. David set up mental health services in Broome while Jill worked in aged care as a remote nurse counsellor. After a lifetime of moving, David and Jill eventually settled in Maldon in 2001. Jill continued working seeing private clients until 2016 when she retired to enjoy her space, her family, her garden, her dog, and the silence.

Womindjika Woorineen willam bit
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home of the Dja Dja Wurrung people
we offer you people good spirit.
Uncle Rick Nelson

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