Australian-born American painter, printmaker and teacher, Ambrose Patterson was born on 29 June 1877 at Daylesford, Victoria, the son of an English-born auctioneer and his Irish wife.

From 1895 to 1898 Patterson attended the National Gallery School, Melbourne, where fellow students included George Bell, Max Meldrum , Rose McPherson ( Margaret Preston ) and Hugh Ramsay. He also studied with E. Phillips Fox and Tudor St George Tucker at the Melbourne School of Art. On receiving an inheritance in 1898, he took Fox’s advice and travelled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. As a result of financial difficulties, in 1899 he travelled to Montreal and to New York, where he worked as a cartoonist for newspapers. In 1901, his brother’s sister-in-law, Nellie Melba, financed his return to Paris. He studied at the Académies Colarossi and Délécluze, where George W. Lambert and Ramsay were also students. He became friends with English artist Alan Beeton, who introduced him to Gerald Kelly.

Initially a follower of Velasquez, around 1904 Patterson started to paint in a more impressionist manner, inspired by the work of Manet, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. He suffered a breakdown in 1905, recuperating first in the south of England and subsequently Ireland. In 1909, while on a trip to Venice, he suffered a further breakdown. Returning to Australia in 1910, he received several significant portrait commissions, and also depicted Melbourne streetscapes and rural landscapes. He received support from Frederick McCubbin , with whom he was one of the founders of the Australian Art Association.

Patterson moved to Hawaii in 1916, where he mastered the art of woodblock printing. In 1918 he moved to Seattle, and was appointed Professor of Art at the University of Washington from 1919 to 1947. He became an American citizen in 1928. Between 1929 and 1930, he studied in France under André Lhote, adopting a moderate form of Cubism and, in 1934, he went to Mexico to study fresco painting. Ambrose Patterson died on 27 December 1966 in Seattle, aged 89.

Gray, Dr Anne Note: Head of Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT
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