Australian Art


Mary Lormer
Mary Lormer

AKA: Mary Godley

Born: 1898 Melbourne

Died: 1985
  • Painter

There is virtually no reference material available on M.B. Lormer. Initial research with libraries and State galleries drew blanks. Luckily enough, Eily Lormer had put her address on the frame of her painting. We checked the address only to find a medical clinic where once she lived. We were given a few clues but they didn't amount to anything. I finally did a doorknock of the few residential homes left in the street, resulting in me obtaining the address of a niece.
The niece, Wendy Richards, unfortunately knows very little of her aunts personal life and admits to the family not being keen on her art. Eily (as she was known) was married to her uncle and was thirty nine years of age when she married Robert John Lormer in September of 1937. Robert was in his early fifties, and was a rolling stock Engineer with the Tramways board.
Within his own family Robert had been considered a confirmed bachelor though had courted Mary Eileen for many years. Wendy recalls her mother telling her it was a romantic story, but there had been problems. Whether the marriage was opposed by Eily's family or some other matter, it resulted in Eily never mentioning her past, never keeping momentoes or photographs. Robert, however was very proud of her and he kept some exhibition catalogues, photographs and other personal items of which Eily was unaware. There were no children of the marriage.
After the death of the Lormers, Wendy was surprised to find evidence of Roberts involvement in art finding several sketchbooks and paintings by him as also evidence that he had attended art classes.
Eily was born in Prahran. Her father was William Godley and her mother Janet Isobella Cuthbertson. She had a brother and a sister but did not maintain contact with them.
Wendy describes her aunt as having been retiring and self effacing though always kind and the perfect hostess, in fact a lady. What was noticeable from the time of her marriage was a severe hearing impairment which over the years resulted in total deafness. From the fly leaf out of a book that Robert had squirreled away we know that Eily was taking art lessons in 1915, it simply states: Art Anatomy, 1915. Junior first prize Miss Godley. Signed. Harvey Sutton. MDCHB.
Eily is known to have visited New Guinea with a friend whose father had a lantation there, and also travelled to the U.SA and England. I believe she had art training, her modernist paintings convey a vision and modernism ability that make her stand out for her time.
Bridget MacDonnall has a painting in her possession by Sybil Craig of "Alan McCulloch opening a contemporary art society exhibition in 1939". On the back of the painting is a key of people pictured. Lormer is one of them, so it can be assumed she was then a member. Sybil Craig was known to have been a friend of Eily's as was Jessie MacIntosh and Marjorie Woolcock.
She was a member of the Melbourne Contemporary Artists Society in the 1950s and early 1960s and exhibited with them during that period, though quite frequently the works were not for sale. She was also a member of the Melbourne Society of Woman Painters and Sculptors (MSWPS) and has exhibited with them as well.
In newspaper articles of that period reviewing the many exhibitions Eily was singled out and briefly mentioned at least half a dozen times and in one undated review by Alan Warren commenting on a MSWPS Exhibition opened by Sir William Dargie comments: "A courageous richly imparted still life (32) by M.E. Lormer is the one unusual feature of the show. If Mrs. Lormer continues to employ such a bold painterly vision we shall be hearing more of her".
Robert was a staunch supporter of Eily and attended exhibition openings with her. From all accounts they were a very closely bonded couple.

Eily Lormer attended the George Bell school every second Saturday during the fifties and early sixties and she would have been around the same age. She is vaguely recalled by some of her peers of the time and described as aloof and very private.
It is my surmation that outside her marriage, Eily Lormer lived in isolation. Afflicted by deafness she would have suffered a silent world - a world without communication which explains the self effacing, and private ne ss that she portrayed.
Acclaimed in the fifties, Eily Lormer faded with her isolation her only solace being her painting which she continued until her declining years.
Mary Eileen Lormer deserves recognition and needs to re-emerge and be acknowledged as the visionary portrayed by Alan Warren.

Source: Wendy Richards.


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