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pritchard-blumann  : surf riding w.a., 1937-1940

Katherine Susan Prichard - Elsie Blumann :  Surf Riding in Western Australia, 1937-1940.

Prichard, Katherine Susan:
Intimate Strangers
Johnathan Cape Ltd., London, 1937.
Collins/Angus & Robertson, Australia, 1990.
Quin, Sally:
Bauhaus on the Swan - Elise Blumann, an emigre artist in Western Australia, 1938-1948.
UWA Publishing, Crawley, Western Australia, 2015.

This entry was prepared following an email (with the scans of the artwork reproduced below) by Mark Jeffery from W.A.:

Dear Geoff,
As a surfer and  occasional viewer of your interesting website and research I thought you may be interested in these dynamic oil paintings of stand up surfing on surf skis.
They come from a recently published book, Bauhaus On The Swan, by Sally Quin, UWA Press 2015.
I think I may have seen one of the paintings once at the W.A. art gallery
This book also contains a brief excerpt describing surfing at Perth from Katherine Suzanna Pritchard's book Intimate Strangers, 1937,
anyway all the best.

Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883 1969) was an Australian author and co-founding member of the Communist Party of Australia.
The novel Intimate Strangers (1937) was a turning point in her life.
The fire of a regenerating idea referred to in the novel's revised conclusion was reflected in the author's life; as pamphleteer and public speaker, Katharine Prichard fearlessly and emotionally promoted the cause of peace and social justice.

Elise Blumann (1897 1990) was a German born artist who achieved recognition as an Australian Expressionist painter.
In 1934, she fled Nazi Germany with her husband  and arrived at Fremantle, Western Australia in 1938.
In the following decade, Blumann produced a significant body of painting, taking as her subject the Western Australian landscape, her family and her new circle of friends.

Intimate Strangers
Page 64
[At Cottesloe]

People were shoaling into the sea brandishing their surfboards.
Rachel turned over on her stomach to watch them.

Elodie watched them too.
Peg and Bill had started porpoise diving with other children in the shallows.
Men and girls, farther out, were playing sea horses, girls climbing to the men's shoulders, sitting astride their necks and fighting each other until horses and riders fell riotously into the sea.

Chrissie and Captain Hartog had gone out to surf in the breakers, Hartog on his long varnished board was shooting in over the great waves: Chrissie balancing on rollers nearer the shore.
Her slight figure in sand-coloured swimming suit as if she were wearing no more than her skin.
She hung in the translucent green curve ol a wave like the nymphs.
After each shoot, Hartog went crashing back through the surf to deeper water from which the great combers were rising, while Chrissie giggled and called to him gleefully.

Page 65
A wave more boisterous than the rest had caught Chrissie: sent her squirming and sprawling on to the beach.
Hartog helped her to her feet.
They came up the beach laughing and exclaiming together.

Page 66
Standing a little way off, she pretended to watch the surfers, the maelstrom of men and boards where waves were breaking on the sandbank; but from the corner of her eye the drama under Ray' umbrella played itself out for her

Page 164

The crowd left the beach with the end of the school holidays; but the weather was still hot and a few families lingered in the bungalows and cottages along the cliff.
For week-ends and Sundays the township was as busy as ever; the surf and the sand as gaily patterned with swarms of bathers and sun-dozers.

The Surf Club competitions were over for the season although the life-savers mustered for duty during weekends.
Now and then, when there was a heavy swell, they had a busy time, hauling unwary swimmers caught by the undertow.
Dirk took her part the rescue work.

Bauhaus on the Swan - Elsie Blumann

Page 44. [Commentary by Sally Quin, 2015]

Modern Bodies on Perth beaches
The beach is used by Blumann as a setting for a series of images of surfers produced from around 1939 (figs 41, 42, 43).
These exuberant bodies are shown standing on longboards (
sic, surf-skis), paddles in hand, propelled towards the shore by the force of the waves.
There is a great sense of forward motion conveyed in these paintings.
Looming waves tower above the surfers' heads, cutting off the horizon line and pushing the surfers extreme foreground, almost beyond the bounds of the picture plane.
The momentum of these surfers, their bodies taut in vigorous activity, is very different from the relaxed pose of Summer nude. Nevertheless, all these bodies are responding to the transforr sensations of the beach, which Blumann shows to be equally capable of eliciting a si blissful repose or a vitalising dynamism.

Page 45

Figure 41. Surfer, 1940
oil on paper, 64. x 51.0 cm
Private collection

Page 46

Figure 42. Su
rf, 1939-46
oil and gouache on masonite, 74.0 x 65.0 cm
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased 1985

Page 49

Figure 43. Surfer, 1939-46
oil on canvas, 69.5 x 51.0 cm
Private collection

In the late 1960s, Blumann returned to some of her earlier themes:

Surf 9,
drawing in brush and ink, pastel and watercolour
sheet 34.0 h x 51.2 w cm
Purchased by the NGA, 1978.

National Gallery of Australia

North Cottesloe Life Member
Bruce Mckenzie

 on his ski, c 1938.

Jaggard, Ed (editor):
Between the Flags
UNSW Press, Sydney, 2006, page 122.

Surf-ski rider
Albany, Western Australia

West Australian Travel Brochure,

Hollow surfboards and surf-ski,  Cottesloe, 1956.

State LIbrary of WA


Prichard, Katherine Susan:
Intimate Strangers
Collins/Angus & Robertson,
Australia, 1990.

Quin, Sally:
Bauhaus on the Swan
 Elise Blumann,
an emigre artist in Western Australia,

UWA Publishing, Crawley,
Western Australia, 2015.

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Geoff Cater (2016) : K.S. Prichard - Elise Blumann : Surf Riding in W.A., 1937-1940.