Australian Art


Irene Barberis
Irene Barberis

AKA: Margaret Irene Barberis

Born: 1953 London, England
  • Drawings
  • Established

Irene is the eldest daughter of Verdi Barberis (Vern) and Betty Barton. She has three sisters and one brother. Vei'n is a second generation Australian with his antecedents coming from Genoa, Italy. In 1952, Vern Barberis represented Australia at the Helsinki Olympics as a Weightlifter. They happened to be in England when Irene was born and she was named Margaret Irene Barberis. The young family returned to Australia in 1954.
Irene's Great-Grandmother, Elizabeth McCrae Wilson, had studied under Girolama Nerli and played both the piano and 'cello. She was also a photographer and just recently, some of her landscapes have been taken from glass plates and made into photographs. Indeed a talented lady. At the age of 32 she married Widower, Arthur Barton, who was one of the first settlers in the Kiewa Valley. Arthur had four children from his first marriage and he and Elizabeth had another four children. Throughout her lifetime, she maintained a room for her activities in which the children were not allowed. Their youngest son, Roderick Barton, married Myrtle Ann (Dolly) Hore, who were Irene's Grandparents. Dolly also did drawings and Irene describes her works
as "fantastic". Dolly went on to bear and raise twelve children and did not continue drawing. They all lived at the Barton House in the Kiewa Valley (Gundowring). One of the twelve children was Betty, Irene's mother. Betty was the oldest of the girls and also a talented drawer. She left school at the end of Grade Six and worked on the farm, drawing - whenever the opportunity arose, with charcoal on the floor of the cow shed. Someone passing through saw her drawings and
arranged for her work to be viewed. She was encouraged to enter a project for the "Young Farmers" by illustrating a book. She won first prize for Victoria and the book was exhibited at the Royal Melbourne Show. This resulted in Betty attaining a Manual Art Teacher's Studentship. Irene grew up in the knowledge of having had three generations of talented women artists in the family.
Irene's love was Ballet, although she admits to always having been fond of drawing. She studied Classical Ballet from the age of three to nineteen. Vern being a teacher caused them to move throughout Victoria, but Irene attended Royal Academy of Dancing Schools throughout, beginning at Oakleigh, then Horsham, Warrnambool, Benalla and ultimately coming back to Melbourne, whereupon she went to the Paul Hammond Ballet School. When she was eighteen, Godwin Bradbeer and Warren Brenninger came to the School. They took numerous photos and did drawings of the dancers. Her interest aroused, Irene began drawing seriously. Not long afterwards, she sustained a serious knee injury from dancing. She turned all her efforts to drawing.
In 1972, she enrolled at Prahran College of Advanced Education to do a Diploma in Fine Art. There, she worked under Fred Cress, Victor Majzner and Jeffrey Makin. In 1974, she travelled to America and England, and upon her return in 1975, enrolled at the Preston Institute of Technology to do a Diploma of Art and Design. There she was lectured by Peter Booth, Daley Hickey and Dom De Clario. In 1977, she went on to do a Post-Graduate Diploma in Painting at the Victoria College of the Arts. Billy Kelly was the Dean and her Lecturers were Gareth Sansom, Richard Havyatt and Paul Partos. Irene feels she was not particularly influenced by anyone lecturer throughout her courses, but regarding them all as friends and acquaintances who were a great source of encouragement to her. In 1979, Irene was awarded the Keith and Elizabeth Murdoch Travelling Fellowship, enabling her to travel to Paris. From 1979 to mid-1982, she was at the Cite Internationale des Arts. She also took the opportunity to visit all the major collections and thought they were "terrific". Irene's own taste and preference is for the seventies Minimalist Period.
In 1983, she had a studio in the Sun/Electric Building in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. There she met Adrian Page who also had his studio there. They married in May 1984. Irene then dropped the name Margeret and became Irene Barberis-Page. She and Adrian have a daughter, Rebekah, who was born in 1988. Recently, they have taken on the enormous challenge of converting a small factory in Kensington into their home and two studios. Despite the chaos that goes with moving, there was evidence that Irene was working in amongst it all, indicating a conviction and commitment to her art. This year, she has undertaken to do a Master's in Fine Arts at the Victoria College, Melbourne University. To date, Irene has had six solo exhibitions and participated in some thirty-five group exhibitions. Irene is represented at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Regional Galleries of Ballarat, Mornington, Wollongong. Irene Barberis has an enormous amount of vitality and recognition of her hard work is evidenced by the many commissions she receives.
Source: Interview by Willi Carney, 4th May 1992


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