One of Australia’s great twentieth century painters, Hilda first studied art at the National Gallery School, under Frederick McCubbin (1902-1905). Along with her sister and mother, she then departed for London in 1907 to study under John Hassall at the New Art School of Kensington. Her studies were completed in the following year in Paris when she took lessons at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, under Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Claudio Castelucho.
Until the outbreak of World War One, Hilda lived and worked in Paris. She established herself at the artist’s colony in Etaples, Picardy and journeyed twice to Spain and Morocco at this time. Hilda’s paintings of both Picardy and Morocco led to rapid international acclaim. In 1912 the Government of France purchased her, Grand Marche, Tangier, for the Luxembourg Gallery. French critics enthusiastically compared her work with such masters as Besnard, Lenoir, Forain and Lautrec.
During the First World War in 1914. Hilda was forced to evacuate for London. Soon after, her sister and mother passed away. Later that year, Hilda met and married Major George Nicholas of Australia’s 24th Battalion. After a short honeymoon, Major Nicholas was killed in action at Flers. Hilda maintained her husband’s name throughout the remainder of her career, although she remarried in 1928.
At the war’s end (1918), Hilda left England for Australia. During the following years she continued to establish herself as one of Australia’s finest painters, but not without raising some strife within the male dominated artistic establishment. More accustomed to the liberal atmosphere of France, she began to explore the landscape themes of Australia’s great wilderness, generally regarded as the domain of male artists. In 1924, she was invited to exhibit her Australian art in both France and England, and returned to Paris where the government of France purchased another painting. In 1926, she returned to Australia and was also elected an Associate of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
In her following years, both ill health and gender related attacks upon her art took their toll. During the last several decades, however, major retrospective exhibitions of her art have been launched in Melbourne, Victoria and Sydney. Hilda is now rightly regarded as one of Australia’s finest twentieth century artists. [x][x]