Cherry1924 by Agnes Goodsir

Goodsir was born into a wealthy family and was arguably one of Australia’s most pre-eminent bohemians, living with her lover and artist’s model ‘Cherry’ . While in London during the war, Agnes was close friends with Bernard Roelvink and his American wife Rachel. Rachel subsequently divorced Roelvink and her name reverted to Mrs Rachel Dunn, with the nickname ‘Cherry’ used among friends and close associates.

Cherry became Agnes’ artist’s model, lover and the dominant subject of later works. Cherry and Agnes took to frequenting the cafes and bistros of Paris and mixing in circles which included Picasso, Joyce and Hemmingway. Although she lived with her lover in Paris her sexual preference was closely veiled in Australia.

“In Paris there was a lot of vice. There was a lot of art, there was a lot of culture.” “There were riotous parties and there were wonderful people, and the further it gets in the past, the more vivid the image becomes.” “These were people who came to Paris because they could do things in Paris that they weren’t allowed to do in their own countries.” “To be a woman painter, in Paris it was perfectly understandable, in Australia often looked down on.”

“And when news got around that that’s what Paris was like, everybody decided that they wanted to be there as well, and the illusion sold itself. The fantasy became a reality.”

“This was not only an artistic scene, it was a literary scene, where you saw Silvia Beach, Adrienne Monier. Scott Fitzgerald dined there and Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Powell, James Joyce,” Baxter said.“All these people visited that same building, so it’s quite likely that she [Goodsir] ran into these people on the stairs.”Pablo Picasso was there amongst the milieu, though his work there was supported solely by the experimental writer Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice Toklas.

For the French, this was a friendly invasion fueled by the collapse of the franc after World War I. As Ernest Hemingway boasted, you could live well for a year in Paris on just $US1,000.“To be part of such an amazing period in history, as well, where everything was thrown up, where everything was challenged, where everything was changed – it was radical, I guess. There were just these big shifts in sexuality,” Australian artist Sally Smart said.

Goodsir was joined by the likes of Max Meldrum, Rupert Bunny, Besse Gibson and Ethel Carrick Fox.“Part of the experimentation of the day was within their work,” Smart said.“It probably was also in their sexuality, as well, and whether part of that experimentation was whether they did find their sexual identity – they probably did.”
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