STURGESS, Reginald Ward (1890-1932)

STURGESS, Reginald Ward (1890-1932)
painter in water-colours
son of Edward Richard Sturgess, cabinet maker, was born at Williamstown, Victoria on 18 June 1890. He attended the local state school and in 1905 joined the drawing school at the national gallery, Melbourne, then in the charge of F. McCubbin (q.v.). In 1909 he won first prize for a drawing of a head from life, and going on to the painting school under Bernard Hall (q.v.), was awarded second prize in 1910 for a painting of still life. In 1911 he won the prize for a landscape painting, and at the end of 1912 left the school. He was working for his father making decorative lampshades until 1916, when he took over the business. In 1917 he married Meta Townsend, who had been a fellow student at the national gallery, but though not well off, he did not attempt to sell his paintings as he was not satisfied with the standard he had reached. He had nine pictures hung at the May 1921 exhibition of the Victorian Artists' Society, and. six were accepted in the following September, but though some were priced as low as £3 3s., buyers were slow in appreciating the quality of his work.. However, in the same month he held a joint exhibition with D. Dunstan at the Athenaeum gallery which was successful, and he felt sufficiently encouraged to have a one man show at the same gallery in July 1922. Of the 84 pictures shown 54 were sold and for the remainder of his short life Sturgess never had difficulty in selling his work. Shows were held at Adelaide in 1926 and 1927, and at Sydney in 1928 and 1929. Other successful exhibitions were held at Melbourne. He had a serious motor accident in 1926 and apparently recovered, but in 1930 he had trouble with his eyesight and had to give up painting. After two years of inactivity he died at Melbourne on 2 July 1932. His wife survived him with a daughter.
Sturgess was tall and slight, shy, highly sensitive, and passionately fond of music. He was an excellent craftsman, and a beautiful colourist. Some of his work appears to have been influenced by Hilder (q.v.), but he was working in a similar style before he had actually seen the elder painter's work. He was attracted by similar subjects, but his drawing is firmer than Hilder's and he more often has the feel of the open air. He is represented by four examples at the national gallery, Melbourne, by three in the Adelaide gallery, and also at Ballarat.
R. H. Croll, foreword to The Life and Work of R. W. Sturgess; Records National Gallery of Victoria; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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