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Derham, Frances
Date of birth: 1894
Place of birth: Malvern
Date of death: 1987
Biography: Frances Alexandra Mabel Letitia (Frankie) Derham, artist and art educator, was born on the 15th November 1894 in Malvern, Melbourne to Irish parents, civil engineer J.T. Noble Anderson and Ellen Mary Anderson (nee White-Spunner). Frances was the eldest daughter in a large family, consisting of: Stewart Anderson (1893-1913), Alice Foley Anderson (1897-1926), Katrine Anderson (1899-1991), Claire Anderson (1904-?) and Joan Anderson (1907-1994). Frances’ early education consisted of a short time at Lauriston Girls’ School at age 5, and afterwards by several governesses. In July 1901, Frances and family moved to New Zealand where her father took the position of Chief Engineer for the Drainage Board of the City of Dunedin. During this time, Frances took drawing lessons at the Dunedin branch of South Kensington Art School. In November 1907, Frances and family returned to Australia, landing in Sydney. By early 1908, the family had settled on land in Narbethong, just outside Healesville, Victoria. The property which came to be called ‘Springbank’ had been purchased by J.T. Noble Anderson prior to moving to New Zealand, probably around 1896. After moving to ‘Springbank’ J.T. Noble Anderson became consulting engineer for the four shires of Toowong, Healesville, Alexandra and Howqua. In 1908, Frances completed her merit certificate at the local school at Healesville. After 1908, J.T. Noble Anderson took Frances’ education into his own hands, training her in drafting and bookkeeping as well as other more general subjects. Frances later acted as an assistant to her father in his business. From 1911-1913, Frances attended classes at the National Gallery Art School in the morning and sculpture classes at Eastern Suburbs Technical College in the afternoons and evenings three days a week. During this time Frances shared a flat with her brother Stewart, attended general classes taught by Jessie Webb and produced prints and designs. In 1913, Frances’ brother Stewart drowned off South Head in Sydney in a tragic accident. The death of Stewart brought already existing financial problems facing the Anderson family into focus. The expense of five daughters living at home meant the end of Frances’ short career as an artist, her father instead encouraged her to go into teaching. Nonetheless, Frances continued to produce art and develop as an artist throughout her life, attending lessons with artist George Bell (1931, 1939-1941, 1948-1951), Mary Cecil Allen (1923, 1936, 1950, and 1960) and Ludwig Hirschfield-Mack (1959). From 1914-1917, Frances pursued studies at Swinburne Technical School, completing the Primary and Secondary Art Teacher’s Certificates. Frances’ teaching career began at Swinburne Girls’ Junior Technical School when she was appointed art mistress in 1916. In July 1917, Frances married Captain Alfred Plumley Derham, an ANZAC who served in France and Gallipoli. In 1918, Frances was appointed teacher for a special class in design at Ruyton Girls’ School, Kew. Frances’ first son Thomas Plumley Derham was born in 1919, followed closely by David Plumley Derham in 1920, Stewart (Bill) Plumley Derham in 1924 and later Richard Hogdson Derham in 1931. In 1928, Frances was appointed Lecturer in Art and Child Art at Kindergarten Training College, a position that she held until 1964. Frances also worked at the progressive “Preshil” Kindergarten and Primary School from 1935-1937, and Mercer House (Associated Teachers’ Training Institute) as Lecturer in Art and Child Art from 1949-1961. Frances’ interest in progressive education can also be seen in her support of the experimental Koornong School which was located in Warrandyte, Victoria. During this time Frances’ students at Kindergarten Training College and Mercer House collected and appraised pieces of child art, which grew over time into what became known as the Frances Derham Collection of Child Art. After 1937, Frances came under the influence of the ideas of new Kindergarten Training College director Christine Heinig and art education theorists such as Viktor Lowenfeld. Frances began to pursue research into the new area of ‘child art’ and worked to raise awareness of the value of art and creativity for the early childhood development. In 1938, Frances and Christine Heinig staged an exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery in Melbourne entitled ‘An Exhibition of Child Art from Many Countries’. Frances also created a non-toxic ‘edicol’ finger paint recipe in conjunction with husband Dr A.P. Derham and brother-in-law, scientist Dr A.S. Fitzpatrick. During this time Frances also began studying Aboriginal child art, first at Hermannsburg mission (Northern Territory), and later Aurukun (Thursday Island, North Queensland). In the late 1940s, Frances also contributed illustrations for the ‘First Australian’s First Book’, a reading primer written by Geraldine MacKenzie designed for use in the education of Aboriginal children. In 1958, Frances wrote an article entitled ‘Practical Child Art’. In 1961, the first edition of ‘Art for the Child under Seven’ published in Melbourne. In 1963, Frances was a visiting lecturer in art at Columbia University Teachers College. Throughout her life Frances was actively involved in many committees relating to art and education, including: Lyceum Club Advisory Committee for Art, Arts and Crafts Society (Vice President 1928-1932, selection committee 1928-1931), Nursery School Committee (member, 1931-1939), Lady Gowrie Child Centre (foundation member and Vice President 1943-1975), A.I.F. Women’s Association Auxiliary for POW of Japan (Chairman), Kew Community Aid Auxiliary, Art Teachers’ Association of Victoria (foundation member and President 1959-1961), Australian Society for Education through Art (foundation member and Vice President, 1964-1967), Advisory Council for Children with Impaired Hearing (foundation member, 1977) In recognition of her far reaching achievements and service to the community, Frances Derham was appointed Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in June 1950. In 1976, Frances donated around ten thousand pieces of child art from the Frances Derham Collection of Child Art to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. In 1986, a retrospective exhibition of Frances Derham’s own work was shown at the Jim Alexander Gallery. Frances Derham died 5 November 1987.
Activities/Occupation: Teachers, art, Artists
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