| 144 p. : ill. (some col.), facsims., 1 geneal. table, 1 map, portraits (some col.), bib., index, pbk ; 30 cm.
It was not until 1918 that sixteen men were appointed as Australia’s official war artists for the First World War. No women were chosen. Yet there was an Australian woman artist who lived in France for the whole war, and who since 1915 quietly documented the activities of the Étaples Army Base Camp. Her name was Iso Rae. Rae was born in Melbourne in 1860. At 17 she became a student at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, along with students who were to become household names in Australia: Tom Roberts, John Longstaff, Frederick McCubbin and Rupert Bunny. Ten years later, in 1887, Rae moved to Paris together with her mother Janet and her sister Alison.
In 1890 the three women moved to Étaples in Picardy, where an artists’ colony of Australians, British and Americans had congregated. Working from Étaples, Rae exhibited and sold her large oil paintings in the Paris Salon and in London, and was favourably reviewed by art critics. A quarter of a century later, the outbreak of the First World War found the group still settled in Étaples. The war drove most of the Australians either home or to England, but Rae’s mother was ill and it was thought best not to move her. In one of her last letters to get out in 1914, Iso’s sister explained, I cannot write of all the things we have been through since[the outbreak of war].We are, I believe, the only English in this town now.… Many people went. But we do not want to break up our home unless absolutely obliged to do so. And so the family remained. Iso Rae became one of only two Australian women artists to document the war in France. (The other was Jessie Traill, who was working in a military hospital in Rouen.)