painter, craftworker, designer and editor, was born in Katoomba, NSW on 25 August 1900, second eldest child and eldest daughter of ten children – five brothers and four sisters. She grew up at Balmain and attended Sydney Girls’ High School, leaving at the age of 15 to help her mother care for 'the brood’. Nancy was interested in art and the first job she had was at the Jack O’Lantern studios in Sydney, creating pokerwork for £2 a week. She continued to work there as a commercial artist in the 1920s, decorating furniture and artefact and producing polkerwork designs in her own studio.

From 1918 Nancy Hall attended Julian Ashton’s art studio, where her contemporaries included Roland Wakelin , Dorrit Black and Grace Crowley . In July 1924 she published the first issue of the magazine Undergrowth , which she edited with Dore Hawthorne until 1929. A linocut by Ysobel Irving (later Irvine), published in the July August 1928 issue, showing a young woman in a smart suit and hat moving purposefully towards a seat on a ferry in many ways typifies the stated aims and unstated achievements of this student magazine. Begun as a four page, hand-typed newsletter for the Sydney Art Students’ Club, Undergrowth progressed rapidly to become a handsome, professionally printed magazine. Titled by its editors Undergrowth: A Magazine of Youth and Ideals , it contained articles, poetry, stories and plays from students and others. The cover designs were linocuts and woodcuts by Hawthorne, Crowley, Florence Taylor , Ruth Ainsworth , Miriam Moxham , Gwen Ridley and Roland Wakelin. The other illustrations were mostly linocuts and woodcuts by students with occasional photographs and coloured reproductions of works by established artists such as William Dobell , Wakelin and Roy de Maistre .

Its youthful acceptance of new ideas resulted in a leaning in favour of modern art; indeed, Undergrowth became the main forum for information about, debate on and support for modern art in Sydney. By virtue of the number of female artists working in a modernist style, including Anne Dangar , Grace Crowley, Thea Proctor , Ethel Anderson and Margaret Preston , the number of letters and articles by and about women artists and supporters of modern art outnumbered similar items concerning or by male modernists. As has often been remarked, women students in art schools always far outnumber the men. Although Undergrowth printed contributions from male students, it reflected the prevailing gender ratio and hence gave women an unprecedented voice to express their views and publish their work. The female editorship was unique in a Sydney publication at the time, and it is perhaps telling that women artists such as Ysobel Irving found their only public recognition in Undergrowth . When it ceased publication after the July August 1929 issue, most disappeared, leaving almost no trace in the art world.

At the age of 27 Nancy Hall went to Sydney University, graduating BA in 1931. At the conferring ceremony her father rose to his feet, clapped loudly, and shouted 'Bravo! Bravo!’ Becoming devoted to the ideals of Christian Science, she started two Christian Science schools at Vaucluse – Hillcrest and Edgeworth – where she taught French and Latin. Edgeworth was founded towards the end of the 1930s and named after her friend Sir Edgeworth David. Her brother Ian Hall notes that after the Japanese shelled the eastern suburbs in the early 1940s she transferred Edgeworth with some 19 students to a large old house in the 'country’ at Castle Hill. She rented the property, which had plenty of room, but no amenities. Chaos reigned as she did the chores and taught a bunch of adventurous children for a year with the help of a few dedicated volunteers, then returned to make great progress at Vaucluse.

Nancy Hall, who never married, painted in oil and watercolour and did illustrative designs almost up to her death. She spent her last years in the Lady Gowrie Village at Gordon, where she encouraged other residents to become interested in activities beyond the daily routine. 'Nan was never critical, just loved and loving’, wrote Ian Hall, the last surviving sibling, in an Sydney Morning Herald obituary. She died peacefully at Gordon on 22 June 2001, aged 100.

Johnson, Heather Note: Primary
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