AKA: Lesbia Thorpe
Born: 1919 Melbourne
Lesbia was born in Elsternwick, Victoria to William Thorpe and Victoria May Horton. She has one brother - Barkley Thorpe. The family moved to Sydney while she was still a baby.
It was evident that Lesbia had talent from a very young age which her mother nurtured. Lesbia went to Cremorne Grammar School but her mother was so convinced of her daughter’s talent that she was instrumental into enrolling her into Dattilo Rubbo's art studio at the age of thirteen.
That was a very young age and Lesbia found herself surrounded by much older art students, some of these being Donald Friend, Edna Russell, Wallace Thorton etc.
Dattilo Rubbo had arrived in Australia from Naples, Italy in 1897 and set up his Art School in Sydney in 1898 and maintained it for 43 years. He himself had been a student of the Naples Royal Academy and was academic in his methods, though never considered restrictive.
Lesbia was his student for 6 years. She started to exhibit in 1936 participating in group shows and Art Society Shows.
In December of 1941 she had her first Solo Exhibition at the Minerva Building in Sydney.
In 1943 she was elected a member of the Royal Art Society on NSW (RASNSW). In 1941 and 1944 she executed murals for theatres and in 1946 had her first Solo Exhibition in Melbourne at Kozminsky Galleries. She moved to Melbourne about this time, again Exhibiting at Kozminsky's in 1947. In 1951 she illustrated for AlIan Marhsall's "People of the Dreamtime" and "The Cruise of the Roebuck" by Geoffrey Rawson.
In 1953 Lesbia went to London and studied Printmaking for 2 years with Gertrude Hermes and also exhibited with several London Art Societies.
In 1954 she was elected an associate member of Wood Engravers, Great Britain and was also invited to exhibit at the International Wood Engravers in Zurich.
Lesbia returned to Melbourne in 1955 and held her first solo exhibition of colour prints at the Victorian Artists Society and to her delight the National Gallery of Victoria made their first purchase of one of her works.
In 1956 she was elected Secretary of the Melbourne Graphic Artists and exhibited with them throughout. Contemporaries that Lesbia associated with were Helen Ogilvie, Phil Waterhouse, Mary Macqueen, Barbara Brash, Fred Williams, Kenneth Jack, Tate Adams and more recently Basil Hall and George Gittoes.
In 1956 she had her first solo show in Brisbane and had some of her prints purchased by the National Gallery of W.A.
In 1958 she won the acclaimed Maud Vizard Wholoham Print Prize in Adelaide with the Gallery of SA purchasing the print.
In 1966 Lesbia returned to England and in 1961 had one of her prints accepted by the Royal Academy in London. She also became an elected member of the Royal Graphic Arts Society - London.
She returned to Melbourne in 1962 and continued exhibiting and in 1964 again winning the Maud-Vizard Wholahan prize.
In 1964 she began Lecturing in Printmaking at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Council of Adult Education.
In 1970 she had the good fortune to tutor a group of artist/tourists through Java and Bali.
From 1972 to 1975 she and her husband Eric Ryden Baldwin extensively travelled England, Europe and Asia. Eric has since died.
I haven't had the opportunity of spoken contact with Lesbia but her impressive C.v. is too enormous to cover this resume, except to say she is represented in every State Gallery in Australia and both the Territories and that in itself speaks volumes of the regard in which she's held.
Lesbia Thorpe in her private life is known as Lee Baldwin.
Lesbia passed away in Ninderry Nursing Home in Queensland in October 2009.
Written by Willi Carney
Source: Lesbia Thorpe