Frazer on Sinclair

CAM Front of House Officer Sarah Frazer unearths childhood treasures from the library of CAM's inaugural Director, Beth Sinclair.

R W Sturgess, Among the Marigolds, 1923, watercolour on paper (subject likely to be Beth Sturgess, aged 4yo). Collection: Castlemaine Art Museum

BETH by books: Childhood treasures from the library of Beth Sinclair
If books tell stories, what do they say about the people who donate them?

The current pop-up display in CAM's foyer showcases a selection of books and related materials donated to CAM by Beth Sinclair (nee Sturgess).
Born in 1919, Beth was the only child of two artists. Her mother, Meta Townsend, passed on to her a wonderful library as well as a love of reading. Her father, R W Sturgess, was a prodigious watercolourist who illustrated children's books. One of the treasures in this collection is the handcrafted book Jimmie Rabbit: His Adventures, illustrated by Beth's father and penned by family friend (and well-known painter) Percy Leason. Other treasures include pocket-sized poetry books and an embroidered bookmark. These works take on a fresh poignancy when viewed with the knowledge that Beth's father died when she was only 13 (he was 40 years old at the time). Now we see that this collection is an ode to Beth's childhood - a bubble in time made material through books and art.

Handmade book: Jimmie Rabbit, written by Percy Leason, illustrated by R W Sturgess, 1910. Collection: Castlemaine Art Museum
Open book: Jimmie Rabbit, written by Percy Leason, illustrated by R W Sturgess, 1910. Collection: Castlemaine Art Museum

So what became of this little girl with the beautiful book collection? 
She grew up to break glass ceilings. Beth Sinclair inherited her parents' passion for the Arts. She studied metalwork under Stanley Ellis, served on the board of Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum, and became the first female director of a public art gallery in Australia when she took the role of CA(GH)M's inaugural Director.
Discover hidden references to Beth Sinclair and her friends throughout CAM
In the galleries
Peter Tyndall's exhibition SINCLAIR + GALLERY until 24 July 2022
Percy Leason's painting Two of the Artist's Children
In the museum
Beth's children's toys
Enamelwork by Stanley Ellis
In the shop 
Bookmarks and cards featuring the work of R W Sturgess
The book Percy Leason: An artist's Life by Margot Tasca

R W Sturgess, Surprised, 1912, watercolour on paper. Collection: Castlemaine Art Museum

Sarah Frazer
March 2022

Sarah Frazer

Sarah Frazer is a CAM Front of House Officer. She spent many years as a Conservator exploring the labyrinths, dungeons and vaults of museums and archives, before moving to Castlemaine with her family in 2015.

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