Person - Elaine Haxton

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ELAINE ALYS HAXTON (1909 - 1999)

Elaine Haxton was friendly with Cedric Flower and visited his parents' dairy farm at Tilba Tilba. Her design for NT's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme , which opened on 1 November 1945, was well received, showing what could be done with a minimum of trimmings.

Born in Melbourne on 26 September 1909, Haxton as a baby moved to Sydney where, after leaving school at age 14, she studied with Rayner Hoff and was his assistant at East Sydney Tech before working as a fashion artist at David Jones. In 1930 she went to England. After travelling in USA and Mexico, she returned to Australia in 1939 to work as a décor designer and graphic artist. In 1942 she was commissioned by restaurateur Walter Magnus to paint scenes from the ballet "Le Coq D'Or" on the walls of his restaurant of the same name in Ash Street, Sydney. Near the end of the war she went to New Guinea to work in theatre with a Dutch dancer.

Postwar Haxton continued to travel widely and broadened into advertising, book illustration, painting, printmaking, etching and costume and set design for ballet and opera. She designed and painted (with students nicknamed “splodgers”) huge sets for Borovansky’s The Three Devils and Journey to the Moon and worked for J C Williamsons who were mean with money. Painting sets was a smelly business because they used big pots of rabbit-skin glue. In 1956 she was one of 11 members of the Australian Cultural Delegation (organised through the Australia-China Society) who went to China where they saw opera, circus, folk dance and shadow puppetry.

Haxton’s works are on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in Australia in the National Gallery and all State galleries. William Dobell painted her portrait in 1941 for the Archibald. In 1954 she married retired Brigadier “Dickie” R C Foot (died 1969) who built her a house at Pittwater. She died in Adelaide on 6 July 1999, survived by a niece. In 2014 the top auction price for one of her paintings was over $63 000.

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