Rae Letters booklaunch
The Melbourne-born sisters, Iso and Alison Rae studied art at the National Gallery School in the 1870s & 1880s. They left for Paris in 1887 to pursue careers overseas and never returned.
Many art historians and collectors have been fascinated by the sisters, particularly Iso Rae, since a collection of her pastels turned up in a London auction in the late 1970s. The pastels depicted the military camps at Etaples where the sisters were working as VADs during the First World War. I was lucky enough to include many of these works in my early watercolour catalogues of the 1980s.
Over the years I have had many inquiries for information about the sisters. These letters, written to a family they befriended in Melbourne, provide a wonderful window on the lives of these two, remarkable Australian women.
Through the gentle tone of the letters, mostly from Alison, we learn of their joys and sorrows. The letters are funny and insightful, full of wisdom and compassion. We glimpse the hardship endured with the lead up and then the aftermath of the First World War and their desperate plight with poverty and illness. We read of their delight when they are visited by Iris Field’s grandmother and mother in 1929. What a tonic it was for them at the time!
This book represents a rare opportunity to glimpse the lives of these two families and we are grateful Iris and her mother, now 102 years old, have decided to share the letters with us.
If you are unable to make it to the launch, signed copies of the book can be reserved from the gallery for $45.