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The James Gleeson oral history collection

James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists | SUBSCRIBE TO iTUNES PODCAST

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Old house, Dieppe c.1926
Drawing, Watercolour, Technique: watercolour
image 30.6 h x 22.0 w cm
sheet 30.6 h x 22.0 w cm
Gift of Anna Gray, 2009
more detail

Yvonne Cohen with Valerie Albiston

29 November 1978

James Gleeson: Now, what I'm really anxious to find out is some information about your father whose work you have given to the gallery, and we want background information, biographical details for our official catalogues. Now, I wonder if you can help us?

Valerie Albiston: Well, we'll do our best. Morris Edwin Cohen was born in Ballarat in 1866. He came from a large family. There were four brothers, and they had a business in Ballarat which was later transferred to Melbourne. He was the only one in the family that had any artistic leanings at all. As a boy he was interested in painting and he had as his youthful friend David Davies.

James Gleeson: Oh, that's interesting.

Valerie Albiston: They painted together in Ballarat and they remained friends all their lives. When Dave Davies left Ballarat and went to live in Dieppe, my father visited him in Dieppe and also acquired paintings of his which we have given to the Ballarat Gallery.

James Gleeson: I see.

Valerie Albiston: Two paintings from Dieppe of that period. My father died in 1931 and before then his business was transferred to Melbourne, and it has now become McEwans Hardware.

James Gleeson: I see.

Valerie Albiston: He illustrated and wrote travel articles for the commercial travellers magazine, and he was a very clever caricaturist. He painted mostly in pastels, which he imported directly from France. He had a lot of artist friends–the artist Taylor Gee he knew very well. He also knew Longstaff very well. He had a one-man exhibition with Gill–and I don't remember Gill's Christian name–at his gallery at Exhibition Street in 1929. He sold a lot of paintings then, very small pastels, and he'd previously shown in a mixed exhibition among quite a lot of well known Australian artists such as Will Ashton, Bernard Hall, Harold Herbert, Hilder, Hans Heysen, Lambert, Minns, Roy de Maestre, Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Sidney Ure Smith, John Shirlow.

James Gleeson: He was in good company.

Valerie Albiston: That exhibition was in–let me have a look and see–that was October 10th 1928.

James Gleeson: At?

Valerie Albiston: At the Fine Arts Gallery Exhibition of paintings by Australian artists at Fine Arts Gallery, Exhibition Street.

James Gleeson: Now, Morris I notice here is spelt M-A-U-R-I-C-E.

Yvonne Cohen: Yes, it's wrong.

Valerie Albiston: It's wrong, it's M-O-R-R–

James Gleeson: I always thought it was M-O-R-R-I-S. So they've got an incorrect spelling for the name in that catalogue.

Valerie Albiston: My father really should have been a full time painter but, of course, he wasn't. He used to go out sketching every weekend round and about Melbourne and do all his pastels. He also travelled considerably overseas and did a lot of work overseas–painted. In the early days he painted in Egypt, in Spain, Italy, France and so on–has done a lot of overseas paintings in pastels.


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