Born in Mackay on 23 July, 1923, Nancy Winifred Paterson, who become more commonly known as Nan, is one of Queensland’s most established and respected artists.
After completing school, Nan moved to Brisbane to undertake art studies. She boarded with an aunt who supported her to attend the Brisbane Technical College Art School, completing a course there in 1941.
Nan furthered her studies at the National Gallery School in Melbourne from 1941 to 1946, studying under eminent artists such as Sir William Dargie, Will Rowell, Charles Wheeler and Murray Griffin. It was at the Gallery School that Nan developed her interest in the human figure and in portraiture.
Her studies at the National Gallery School were interrupted in 1942 by World War Two, and for the remainder of the war, Nan served with the AIF, and worked at the Heidelberg Military Hospital where she nursed, cooked and drew for the reconstructive plastic surgeons trying to salvage disfigured bodies.
This intense understanding of anatomy and physiology was to remain the cornerstone of her figurative works.
After the war, in 1946 Nan completed her art studies at the National Gallery Art School with her fellow students including Clifton Pugh, Fred Williams and John Brack, Sam Fullbrook, David Boyd, Ray Crooke, who all went on to achieve prominence in the art world.
At the Gallery School, Nan also met fellow student, Paul Van Epenhuysen, who had been a prisoner of war in Nagasaki. They married, and then moved to Holland in 1949 to be near Paul’s family, living there for about 8 years.
Nan and Paul had three children and whilst in Holland Nan became fluent in Dutch, juggled family life with painting, and absorbed the influence of the old masters of the Dutch School, particularly Vermeer and Rembrandt, and the work of the Impressionists in European galleries.
Returning to Australia in 1956 the family settled in Creswick, Victoria, and then moved to Sydney, where Nan continued art studies with private tuition, established an art studio, ran classes and completed many portraits, many of them being of children.
Nan moved to Sydney in 1962, and whilst most of her time was devoted to caring for her three children, she also showed her work with a gallery in Paddington, and undertook more art studies with private tuition from 1965 to 1968.
In 1968 Nan moved to Brisbane, and soon after she and her husband divorced. With her children now adults, Nan found herself with more freedom and more time to devote to her art. From her art studio at Rainworth she completed several commissions and produced many paintings, with her favourite subjects being nude studies (both in drawing and oil), still life and flowers, portraits, and Biblical characters. In Brisbane Nan also completed more private art studies, as well as tutoring in portraiture at the Royal Queensland Art Society.
During the 1970’s Nan held many solo exhibitions and strongly emerged as one of Queensland’s most respected artists, being highly regarded as a portrait painter.
Nan exhibited at the Royal Queensland Art Society from 1971 to 1985 as well as contributing work to local art prizes such as the HC Richards Prize (1965), the L.J. Harvey Prize for Drawing (1971) and the Redcliffe Art Contest, where she later received a prize for portraiture in 1978.
In 1983, her series of religious paintings, “Genesis”, was shown at St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane.
In 1989, Nan moved to Maleny in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, where she was admired as much for her talent as an artist as she was for the creation of her beautiful garden.
In her later years, Nan remained independent and active. She cherished her books, was a stickler for detail and well versed in current affairs. She was known for her generosity, particularly with her knowledge, and was an unofficial mentor for many artists.
In 1995 her portrait of Dr Gertrude Langer was acquired by the National Library of Australia for the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. Her portrait of author Kylie Tennant was also acquired by them in 2006. Later that same year two other Paterson portraits were acquired by the University of Queensland for their collection.
In 2005, a survey exhibition of her work, entitled 'Nan Paterson Survey 2005’, was held in Brisbane.
Nan Paterson’s works are hung in many private and public collections in Australia and overseas. Her work is represented in the National Library of Australia, the Tweed River Art Gallery and the University of Queensland Art Museum. The National Library of Australia has a recording of Nan’s oral history.
Nan Paterson passed away peacefully in Maleny Soldier's Memorial Hospital in November 2015, and her memorial was held in her beautiful rainforest garden.
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