Rosalie Gascoigne was an Australian Sculptor. She was born at Auckland, New Zealand, on 25 January 1917 in Auckland and died at Canberra, Australia, on 23 October 1999. Gascoigne grew up in New Zealand, however, in 1943 she moved to Stromlo in Canberra, Australia following her marriage to astronomer Ben Gascoigne.
Gascoigne’s father, Stanley King Walker, was an engineer and her mother, Marion Hamilton Metcalfe, was a secondary school teacher. Gascoigne was the middle child in her family and had an older sister, Daintry, and a younger brother, Douglas. Being a scholastic person was valued in the household and art was frowned upon. Gascoigne went to Auckland University and studied English, French, Latin, Greek and Mathematics from 1935-38, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts. In 1940 she completed a one-year course at Auckland Teacher Training College to become a secondary school teacher. Gascoigne had no formal artistic training, and it was only later in life she discovered her abilities. She experimented with the art of flower arranging in the late 1950s and developed a passion for gardening. Gascoigne then took classes at the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.
Gascoigne had three children named Martin, Thomas and Hester. Her eldest son, Martin, became involved in the art world, befriending curator James Mollison and later marrying writer and curator Mary Eagle. He thus played an important role in Gascoigne’s artistic career. In 1963 Gascoigne made a trip to Europe and in 1980 she made an art pilgrimage to New York. In 1982 she travelled to Italy for the Venice Biennale. Important contacts that influenced Gascoigne’s artistic development included Carl Plate, Norman Sparnon, James Mollison and Michael Taylor.
A work that highlights Gascoigne’s artmaking practice and the main themes she explored is Great Blond Paddocks. The work was acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales with funds from the Art Gallery of NSW society. Great Blond Paddocks consists of long, narrow, rectangular pieces of sawn wooden soft drink crates arranged on wood. The work captures the undulating, grassy plains and wheat fields of Canberra and its surrounding regions. In addition it shows the minimalist and abstract qualities of Gascoigne’s art.
Another work of Gascoigne’s is Crop 1 which was initially shown in an exhibition entitled ‘Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape.’ The show was first at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney in 1997 and was taken to the National Gallery, Canberra in 1998. Crop 1 consists of hundreds of dried salsify heads poking through a plane of galvanised chicken wire. They have been compressed, bound and arranged on a silver-grey sheet of galvanised iron. The work symbolises Australian agriculture as it highlights the separation and cultivation of the land. Texture is important in the work, as with Great Blond Paddocks it is evident that the materials have been shaped by their time in the natural environment.
A key exhibition was Gascoigne’s first solo exhibition at the Macquarie Galleries, Canberra as it was her first recognition by the art establishment. Gascoigne’s second solo exhibition in 1976 was important as at the age of 59 she was hailed by the critics as an exciting and new original artist. In 1982 she Gascoigne selected for the 40th Venice Biennale, becoming the first woman to represent Australia. In 1988 Gascoigne participated in the Australian Biennale where her work gained international recognition. Some of Gascoigne’s prizes include the John McCaughey Prize, the Order of Australia and the Grand Prize at the Cheju Pre-Biennale in Korea.
Gascoigne’s work is represented in public collections across Australia. Her work is also represented in public collections in New Zealand and the United States of America. Many of her pieces belong to private collections.