Felicia Browne: Artist and Activist.


Felicia Browne, sketches of abstract shapes resembling leaves, ink and graphite on paper, 302 x 244 mm (mount), 256 x 204 mm (sketch) TGA 201023/1/149

Our 5th post – art and activism.

One of the many fascinations of Felicia Browne is the struggle she faced between her art and her life as an activist. Sometimes this kind of dilemma is presented as a dichotomous situation in which the artist must chose one or the other.

The reality for many artists is that we can’t stop being artists no matter what else life brings, including war. It’s evident that Felicia continued to sketch copiously throughout her life and what remains is but a fraction of her output.

Felicia’s archive held at Tate Britain gives us an indication of her contribution as an artist and witness to war, but it’s the smaller part of a greater body of papers which is currently lost to public view. It also appears that a great many papers were probably destroyed several decades ago.

The story of her life probably overwhelms Felicia the artist, but I wonder what would have happened had she lived.

Getting to know her a little more closely I begin to feel that her commitment to making a contribution to life is what’s inspiring, and her drawing arm a natural extension of her passion. It seems clear, despite her obvious talent and the recognition she received in wining competitions and a bursary in her brief life, that she had no ambition for herself as an artist.

A true radical, she probably cared nothing for the art world and its elitism. I’m coming to admire her as both artist and activist even more. I think in Felicia we are discovering a truly authentic soul.

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