painter and etcher, was born at Brighton, Victoria, daughter of a wealthy banker. Her sister Margaret became an accomplished carver. Jessie commenced her art studies at the National Gallery School (1901-5) and also studied under John Mather, who introduced her to etching. In 1907 her studies continued overseas: in Paris at the Académie Colarossi, followed by two years in London at the Stratford Studio with Frank Brangwyn. In 1909 she exhibited at the Royal Academy and at the Old Salon, Paris. In 1914 she received the Gold Medal for etching at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, San Francisco, and a bronze for her decorative (mural) work.

Traill returned to Australia, but not permanently. Indeed, an outstanding feature of her life was her extensive travelling between France, England and Australia, which began with her first trip to Europe at the age of two and her later schooling in Switzerland. Her art recorded the impact of these voyages in images ranging from North Australia and Java in her solo exhibitions of 1911 and 1913 to an album of watercolour sketches done in 1946 while flying from England to Australia. She wrote numerous articles about her travels in Australia, Europe, North America and New Zealand which were frequently accompanied by photographs or sketches.

During World War I Traill worked for three and a half years as a nurse in the Military Hospital at Rouen, France; her portrait by Cumbrae Stewart was done at this time. In the 1920s she entered a very productive phase that included her Yallourn and Sydney Harbour Bridge etchings. She had been one of the first women in this country to work in this medium and, with Van Raalte, the first to produce colour etchings. In 1921 she exhibited with the Australian Painters-Etchers’ Society in their inaugural exhibition in Sydney, and she helped popularise etching throughout the decade.

In 1923 her work was selected for exhibition in London, where she held a solo exhibition in 1926. That year she exhibited again at the Old Salon and was the only woman (out of fourteen) included by Ure Smith in a presentation of Australian etchings to the New York State Library. In 1928 Traill visited Central Australia, the first white artist to depict the area and the first to mount an art exhibition in Alice Springs. Her work was subsequently shown at Wilpena Pound, Melbourne and Brisbane. Traill also undertook a number of murals, including one for the children’s ward at the Queen Victoria Hospital, Melbourne. In the 1930s, as interest in etching declined, her production in that medium came to a halt.

Traill participated in many group and solo shows. She was a member of the Society of Graphic Art, London, the Australian Painters-Etchers’ Society, Sydney, and the Victorian Artists’ Society. She exhibited with the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, in most of the state capitals, in France and in London. She is represented in major state, regional and institutional galleries, in private collections and in the La Trobe and Mitchell libraries.

Kirby, Sandy Note: Heritage biography.
Date written:
Last updated: