MATHER, John (1848-1916)


MATHER, John (1848-1916)
artist
was born at Hamilton, Scotland, in 1848. He studied at Edinburgh and came to Victoria in 1878. For some time he made a living as a house decorator, and in 1880 was partly responsible for the decoration of the dome of the exhibition building at Melbourne. At his week ends he painted landscapes both in oil and water-colour, and finding that these were becoming popular was able to give the whole of his time to art. He became well-known as a teacher and many of the artists working at this period in water-colour were his pupils. He exhibited at the Victorian Academy of arts, was an original member of the Australian Artists' Association founded in 1886, and when the two societies were amalgamated under the name of the Victorian Artists' Society he took a leading part in its administration. He was many times president during the next 20 years, and showed himself to be an excellent leader. In 1892 he was appointed a trustee of the public library, museums and national gallery of Victoria. He was a good man of business and this with his knowledge of art made him a very valuable committee member. In 1905 he was appointed to the Felton bequests committee. He died on 18 February 1916. He married in 1883 Jessie Pines Best who survived him with two sons and a daughter.
Mather was a slightly saturnine looking man, but he was not unkindly, and took a genuine interest in the art of Australia. His early experiments in etching were not very successful, and his work in oils is as a rule somewhat hard and tight. "Autumn in the Fitzroy Gardens" at Melbourne is a favourable example of him in this medium. His water-colours were often excellent and he attained great facility as a sketcher. In his later years he sometimes worked too long on his watercolours and spoiled them by getting a woolly effect. He is represented in the galleries at Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Ballarat, Geelong, Castlemaine and Launceston. A portrait by Phillips Fox (q.v.), is in the historical collection at the public library, Melbourne.
The Argus, Melbourne, 21 February. 1916; The Age, Melbourne, 5 November 1932; Wm Moore, The Story of Australian Art; E. La T. Armstrong, The Book of the Public Library of Victoria; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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