Margaret Dunn Crowley – From Perth to Melbourne

MDC EXHIBITION final.pdfMargaret Dunn Crowley was a highly regarded and successful artist living and exhibiting in Perth in the 1950’s. She completed an art certificate course at Perth Technical College before moving to Melbourne and studying at the National Gallery Art School, William Dargie was the principal at the time.

Later she had tuition at Desiderius Orban’s studio in Sydney and would say of Orban that she learnt more from him than any other teacher.

For an artist, Western Australia was a difficult place to earn a living particularly from the sale of paintings, so Margaret worked as a colour consultant for Clarksons in the William Street branch during the day, and painted in a corner of her parents sleep out at night.

Her knowledge of colour coupled with her attractive appearance and pleasing personality caused Clarksons to use her image in their news paper advertisements of the time, where her colour consultant advisory services were available free of charge for the clients. Her status as a well known artist was another selling point used by her employer.

Well schooled in art and popular from the beginning the reviews of her exhibitions were mainly complimentary and encouraging. In one of the many articles referring to her work, the reviewer (generally Charles Hamilton) expected that she would rank among the leading painter’s of Australia. In another titled FEW WORKS OF MERIT, Lou Klepac wrote The best painting by a WA artist prize was won by Margaret Dunn with her “Native Flowers.” This is a remarkable still life in pale colours. Not often do we see a still life of such artistic strength executed by a woman. He then went on to say Apart from the winning entries little else can be called art.

In another review for the West Australian newspaper Charles Hamilton wrote… If you are one of those that saw Margaret Dunn’s last exhibition and felt hopeful of her future success you will find your hopes realized in her present show.


Much was anticipated of her, but as a woman of the 50’s, home duties and raising children would take precedence over a meaningful career as an artist.

From 1949 to 1955 she exhibited every year in Perth and Sydney through group and solo exhibitions. She ceased showing her work from 1955 after marrying and moving to Sydney. She wrote in a small biographical catalogue – lived in Sydney and did not exhibit for many years because of family commitments.

Margaret remained in Sydney until 1983, exhibiting at John Ogburn’s Harrington Street Artist’s Co-operative from 1973 to 83 and Orban’s studio in 1970 – 71. Following a lengthy period of travelling and painting Australia she returned to Western Australia in 1988 to live and work.

This small selection of works from her travel diary of 1954 shows her skill and training as an artist and is satisfying to reintroduce an artist of her undoubted talents to a new audience.

Click here to view exhibition catalogue