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Reproduced courtesy of Wendy Sharpe

Study for 'The Life of Annette Kellermann in Eight Episodes'

Date: 1998
Overall: 740 x 6410 mm
Medium: Pencil on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Wendy Sharpe
Object Copyright: © Wendy Sharpe
Object Name: Scroll
Object No: 00004454
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    This series of paintings were created by Australian artist Wendy Sharpe as a study for a large-scale mural commissioned for Sydney's Cook + Phillip Park pool.
    SignificanceThis study, painted by one of Australia's most respected artists, is a tribute to one of Australia's most enduring swimming stars - Annette Kellerman.
    HistoryBorn in 1886 in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Annette Kellerman spent part of her childhood in Marrickville. She learned to swim at Cavill's Baths in Lavender Bay and became a New South Wales swimming champion in 1902. She left for England at age 18 to help her struggling family. She competed as a long distance swimmer, attempting to swim the English Channel three times, and swam against men in the annual race along the Seine coming equal third.

    Kellerman established herself as a performer through exotic swimming and diving demonstrations. By 1906 she had moved to vaudeville theatre in America as 'Australia's Mermaid' and quickly progressed to the big screen. Kellerman enjoyed tremendous success as a silent movie star in mythological underwater films, including 'Siren of the Sea' (1911), 'Neptune's Daughter' (1914), 'Daughter of the Gods' (1916), 'Queen of the Sea' (1918), 'What Women Love' (1920) and 'Venus of the South Seas' (1924). Kellerman played both mythic mermaid and independent action heroine, unusual for the times. With the advent of talking feature film, Kellerman returned to the stage in vaudeville revues.

    In 1907 Kellerman, appeared on a Boston beach in a revealing cut-down man's bathing suit where she was allegedly arrested for indecent exposure. Kellerman's arrest came in an era when clingy woollen swimsuits were considered risqué and even pornographic, especially in Europe and America.

    Her move to vaudeville theatre in America, titillating underwater films and trademark figure-hugging suits pushed the boundaries of twentieth century propriety and turned her into an international star. Kellerman was dubbed 'the perfect woman’ and compared to classical ideals of beauty such as the Venus de Milo, by Dr Dudley Sargent, director of a Harvard University gymnasium. She championed women's health, beauty and fitness by giving lectures and writing books such as 'Physical Beauty and How to keep It' (1918) and the partly autobiographic text 'How to Swim' (1918). Kellerman also taught physical fitness through correspondence courses.

    Such was Kellerman's fame and theatrical appeal that in 1952 a film was made of her life, 'Million Dollar Mermaid', starring Esther Williams. Annette Kellerman died in 1975 in Queensland.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Studie für "Das Leben von Annette Kellermann " in acht Episoden

    Assigned title: Studie voor 'Het Leven van Annette Kellermann' in acht afleveringen

    Web title: Study for 'The Life of Annette Kellermann in Eight Episodes'

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