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Set of four carved panels

Set of four carved panels

c. 1907

Sarah Squire Todd (1861–1959)

wood (Tasmanian blackwood)

133 h x 29.5 w x 2.5 d cm

Purchased 1979



The four panels were exhibited at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne in 1907. They were purchased from a Hobart antique dealer in 1979. Further provenance is unknown


The crafts movement in Australia has its origins in the Arts and Craft Movement that began in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. The aesthetic and moral ideals of the movement, if not always the political ones, were embraced enthusiastically by a diverse group of amateurs and professionals in Tasmania in the very late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Australia’s first arts and crafts society, the Art and Crafts Society of Tasmania, was formed in Hobart in 1903. For the first two decades of the twentieth century the arts and crafts flourished with woodcarving, particularly by women, a prominent craft media.

These four panels, carved by Sarah Squire Todd, were entered in the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in Melbourne in 1907, where they won second prize in the amateur section. While the carving is abstracted and does not seem to represent specific plant species, the four panels fall into two pairs—one consisting of flowering plants and the other non-flowering. The carving is bold and exhibits a direct finish—with chisel marks clearly visible and a minimum of sanding and finishing—that reflects the arts and craft philosophy of truth to materials.

The un-carved tablets on each panel suggest spaces for text that may have explained the theme behind their design.


Four Tasmanian blackwood panels with low relief carving of stylised plant motifs. Each panel has a large recessed rectangular reserve framing the carving. The design of each panel is unique but follows a general format; each consisting of a large central group of stylised leaves, buds and flowers linked to a smaller upper group composed of the same elements. The stems of the plants extend to the lower part of the panel and modulate to form abstract curvilinear patterns framing a horizontal rectangular tablet. Matching leaves are carved in the lower corners of each reserve. The decorative scheme divides the panels into two pairs, one with concave stem composition and flowering plants and the other with convex stem composition and non-flowering plants.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of studio crafts practice in Tasmania. The work of a small group of women carvers, including Sarah Squire Todd, was prominent in the crafts in Tasmania in the early twentieth century. The crafts movement was supported by various societies and organisations as well as by government-funded training institutions. This set of panels, though incomplete, won second prize in the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work held in Melbourne in 1907.


Pencil layout marks are visible near the top and bottom of each panel. A paper label on the verso of P1979.141d reads:

‘FINE ARTS COURT / Australian Exhibition of / Women’s Work / Melbourne 1907 / Exhibitors Name .............. / indecipherable / written over in blue crayon ‘2nd’ Written on verso of the same panel several times and in different hands: ‘Mrs J (Y?) S Todd / Cascade / Hobart / Tasmania’

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© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 26 August, 2010