Each person and group record on Design & Art Australia Online includes a biographical prose field. Ideally a biographical prose text should provide a brief overview of a subject’s creative role, training and professional history and, where appropriate, facts about family and personal history.
Note: Please see ‘Respect for living artists’ on our Contributor Guidelines. Whereas records for historical artists may contain information about the subject’s personal history, this may not be appropriate for living artists.
Check out Deborah Kelly ’s record for a great example of how to write about living artists.
How long should a prose field be?
The prose field is a brief biography of up to about 1000 words.
You may notice that some legacy records – particularly peer reviewed records – are longer, but we encourage you to keep your prose text succinct. Sticking to the word limit will help to keep the prose ‘to the point’. If you need to add more data, you can always add it to the other data fields.
What is a stub?
A stub is very brief biographical prose in need of more information. You’ll see an invitation to add more information to a stub at the bottom of the prose field.
What should I write in the prose field?
By the time you have come to adding prose text, you will already have read through the Contributor Guidelines, so you’ll know the kind of information you can include in a record and how you can treat the existing data.
Each subject is unique so prose fields will vary from subject to subject. We’ve provided a guide to make things easy for readers, Members and Moderators.
When writing about historical artists or public figures, we suggest:
Start with an overview of the subject’s role, family connections and heritage.
Outline the subject’s creative role/s, date of birth (year only for living artists), their heritage and relevant family connections.
Where possible, the first sentence should follow this format
“Thelma Afford, costume designer and art teacher, was born at Broken Hill in December 1908, daughter of William James Thomas, an engineer, and Ethel, née Henderson.’
“(Name of artist) ROLE and OTHER OCCUPATIONS, was born in PLACE on DATE, child of FATHER, FATHER’s ROLE, and MOTHER, MOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME, MOTHER’S ROLE.”
Move on to the subject’s early life and training.
Write a few sentences about the subject’s youth, training (artistic or otherwise), early introductions to their craft and the like.
Boyd “...attended night classes at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, in 1935, and from 1936 to 1939 painted with his grandfather, Arthur Merric Boyd, with whom he lived in his cottage at Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula.”
Give some details about the subject’s personal life, occupations and associates.
Write a paragraph about the subject’s personal life where appropriate. Have a look at ‘respect for living artists’ on our Contributor Guidelines. For example, did the subject travel, work as a teacher, join any artistic associations, have children etc? Who was the subject associated with?
Hester “...met the painter Albert Tucker whom she was to marry in 1941; in 1945 they had a son, Sweeney. During the period 1937-42 she met and became friendly with several artists who are now recognised as the most significant of their generation: Sidney Nolan, Danila Vassilieff, Josl Bergner , Noel Counihan , Arthur Boyd and John Perceval . She was also associated with John Reid and his wife, Sunday, whose home at Heidelberg, Heide, became a centre for many of these artists (c.1940-47).”
Briefly characterise the subject’s work with examples.
This can be tricky, see the Contributor Guidelines on long descriptions of work. The idea is to give the reader good idea of the subject’s oeuvre without mirroring an artist’s statement or an art review.
“Studio exemplifies the culmination of Margo Lewers’s early formal study and experimentation with abstraction, with the technical qualities of watercolour painting and the oblique framing of space through drawing.”
“Through his painting, John Smith strives to represent the true nature of things… his extraordinary use of colour captivates the viewer… he finds pleasure in the intense observation required to create photorealist paintings and feels that working with oil allows him to express himself more clearly than working with any other medium…”
Tell us about the subject’s career – awards or grants they’ve won, where they’ve exhibited.
Write a paragraph about the subject’s key exhibitions, prizes, grants, commissions and the like. It is not necessary to list all exhibitions within the prose as details can be listed in the metadata section (under Exhibitions) of the biography. Non-artistic recognition such as ‘awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia’ can also be included.
“Barton was the winner of The Archibald Prize 2008 with her self-portrait You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella and was finalist in 2007 with her portrait of Sydney gallery owner Vasili Kaliman. Barton has also been collaborating with the Sydney-based fashion label Romance was Born since 2006.”
Give details about the subject’s later life and death if relevant.
“In 1943 Bowen, then almost 50, was appointed an official war artist by the Australian War Memorial, primarily to depict the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force, then stationed in England and participating in the intensive bombing operations over Germany… Her plans to return to Australia after the war in order to mount an exhibition were thwarted by lack of funds, official obstructions and, finally, ill health. She died of cancer in London on 30 October 1947.”
Is the subject’s work represented in any collections?
Briefly list the major public collections the subject’s work is held in or where the work can be found. Don’t give specific details of private collections – ‘Private collections in Australia and France’ is sufficient.
“Shaun Gladwell’s work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, several state and university collections, and in private collections in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
What if I just want to write a stub?
That’s fine. You can create a Record, add information into the metadata fields and let another member add prose text.