J.W. Maund

J. W.   M a u n d

AWI President 1938-1945

Elaine Coghlan (1897-1989), J.W. Maund, graphite on paper, Collection: Mr John Maund

At the time of B.E. Minns’ death in February 1937, the Australian Watercolour Institute was comprised of twenty-two members  — Albert Collins, Sydney Long, Norman Lindsay, Vida Lahey, C.E.S. Tindall, Harold B. Herbert, G. Rayner Hoff, Joseph Connor, John Eldershaw, M.J. McNally, Kenneth MacQueen, Fred Leist, Rah Fizelle, Maud Sherwood, Napier Waller, H.W. Grace (Hon. Secretary and Treasurer), G.K. Townshend, John B. Godson, Dora Jarret, E. Monckton, Ronald Steuart and Margaret Coen.

It was more than a year later, in April 1938, that J.W. Maund, who was represented for the first time in the AWI 15th annual exhibition that year, was simultaneously elected an AWI member and, strategically, the successor to Minns as President of the Institute. Above average in height, stout, bespectacled, pipe-smoking and imperious, Maund, then aged 62, was a respected solicitor, art aficionado, collector, fervent amateur watercolourist and trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where he was influential as an arbiter of artistic policy, most notoriously as an implacable adversary of modernism.

The second of six children, John Williams Maund was born in 1876 in Paddington to Richard Hunter Maund, surveyor and pastoralist, and Nina Hannah, née Brown, daughter of Thomas Brown and Tamar Smyth, publicans in West Maitland.1 The Maund family had an illustrious pedigree. Richard Hunter Maund, born 1848 in Laverstock, Wiltshire, England, was the third son of William Herbert Maund, a wealthy squire cum woollen draper, and Lucy Illingworth, youngest daughter of reputable wine merchant Richard Stonehewer Illingworth and Henrietta Hunter. The family resided in a stately manor house known as The Hill in Laverstock, Wiltshire. Richard’s elder brother, Sir John Oakley Maund, a man of multifarious pursuits, was a banker, stockbroker, entrepreneur, hunter, intrepid mountaineer and proprietor of the eponymous, imposing Villa Maund (designed by William Morris) in Schoppernau, Vorarlberg, Austria. John Oakley’s second wife, Mary Emily Baring, daughter of MP and Lord of the Treasury, Major Henry Bingham Baring, and Lady Augusta Brudenell, was a descendant of the founders of Barings Bank. Their younger brother, Edward Arthur Maund, achieved renown as an African explorer and pioneer in Rhodesia (initially as a rival then colleague of Cecil Rhodes). He was also an amateur artist, who produced a series of paintings on the homestead of Lobengula, King of the Matabele people, with whom he was closely associated and after whom he named one of his sons Loben, as well as depictions of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Edward’s son, Loben Edward Harold Maund CBE, a rear admiral in the British Royal Navy, married Constance Alice Macartney Iredell, a philosopher and member of the Aristotelian Society, who earned early acclaim in the academic milieu for her analysis of the epistemology of Scottish philosopher, David Hume, Hume’s Theory of Knowledge: A Critical Examination, published in 1937 when she was twenty-five.

A distinguished footballer in his youth, ‘Johnny’ Maund was a solid, able fullback for the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby Union Football Club and was their first Wallaby, having played one match for Australia, versus New Zealand, on 15 August 1903. Later, he compiled the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Metropolitan Rugby Union, published in 1908.

After studying law at Sydney University, Maund was admitted as a solicitor on 26 May 1900 and, in 1930, established with Gareth Owen Kelynack (son of prominent barrister Arthur J. Kelynack) the successful firm J. W. Maund & Kelynack, initially at 273 George Street and, later, at 62 Margaret Street, Sydney. 2 As a young law student, Sir Garfield Barwick, who would later become 7th Chief Justice of Australia, presented himself to Maund with a view to seeking articles of clerkship. In his autobiography, A Radical Tory, Barwick wrote of Maund, ‘He was a bluff and, on first meeting, a grumpy man…In later years, Maund became a great supporter of my practice at the Bar, and I came to know him well….His language was always direct, forceful and at times colourful. He had a sly sense of humour. He was also a good lawyer.’3

For twenty-five years, from the commencement of its publication in 1911, Maund was solicitor for The Land newspaper, during which time he provided legal advice to readers on every topic from straying cattle and the regulation height of fences to the legality of marrying a first cousin and curing tobacco for personal use.4 At the same time, he took an interest in the cultural affairs of the city, concerning which he was a prolific writer of letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. In a 1936 letter, Maund proposed the addition of a new northern wing to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as a fitting memorial to the late King George V in lieu of statuary. 5 When the demolition of Hyde Park Barracks was threatened in the projected remodelling of Circular Quay and Macquarie Street, he was active, as President of the Associated Arts Council, in supporting the preservation and restoration of the convict-built compound for its historical and architectural merit. 6

On 4 August 1913, in Melbourne, Maund married Georgina Kathleen O’Meara, an accomplished actress frequently cast in coquettish roles, known on the stage as Georgie O’Meara, with whom he had three sons, John Williams (Jack), Roderick Allan and Owen Spencer.7 After their marriage, Georgina continued to occasionally tread the boards billed as Mrs J.W. Maund, most notably as the lead in the Sydney Repertory Theatre’s 1932 production of Nine Till Six, a play by Aimée and Philip Stuart, for which she garnered laudatory reviews.As a couple, the Maunds moved in elevated circles, being often cited in the social pages as guests at various cultural and diplomatic functions, including the annual Artists’ Balls, or in connection with Georgina Maund’s charity fundraising work, particularly for St John Ambulance.

A patron of the arts and habitué of Macquarie Galleries, Maund was an assiduous collector, though not on the grandiose scale of his great grandfather, William Herbert Maund (his grandfather’s father and namesake), an affluent needle manufacturer of Cornhill, London, and subsequently Sussex Place, Regent’s Park. Following the demise of William Herbert Maund the elder in June 1837, his vast and ‘valuable cabinet of Italian, French, Dutch and Flemish pictures, many of which were collected abroad’, were auctioned at Christie’s, London. Included in his collection were the Virgin and Child by Raphael, Grand Seaport by Claude from Cardinal Fesch’s collection, as well as works by Carrachi, Titian, Murillo, Brueghel, Teniers, Rubens, Rembrandt, Le Nain, Poussin, Domenichino, Frans Snyder, Vernet and van Balen, among a litany of others.9  

As a collector, one of J. W. Maund’s most important acquisitions, and invaluable contribution to this country’s cultural patrimony, was the iconic painting, Bailed Up, by Tom Roberts, purchased for 500 guineas at the 1928 exhibition of the artist’s work at Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, where it was the showpiece and cynosure of all eyes. The purchase of Bailed Up represented the highest price paid for a single work of art that year.10 Painted in 1895 and reworked in a more modernist style in 1927, Roberts’ image of a Cobb & Co stagecoach being robbed by bushrangers near Inverell, New South Wales, now looms large in our national consciousness. In the name of Mrs J.W. Maund, Bailed Up was immediately lent to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, later lent for exhibition, in 1932, at the Fine Art Society Gallery, Melbourne, and was then sold to the Art Gallery in 1933 for £350. Barry Pearce, recently retired Senior Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, cites Bailed Up ‘as arguably the greatest of all Australian paintings.’11

The fact that Maund’s father, Richard Hunter Maund, and uncle, Edward Arthur Maund, were amateur artists no doubt contributed to his interest in painting and participation in various sketch clubs. Ostensibly an autodidact, he was a competent watercolourist who devoted himself to that avocation with the same passion that Ingres accorded to his violin. The earliest exhibition record for Maund is 1921, when three of his watercolours were hung in the Royal Art Society annual exhibition. He was represented in a 1938 exhibition of Australian watercolours at Macquarie Galleries and, from 1938 until 1961, consistently participated in the Australian Watercolour Institute annual exhibitions. However, Maund’s works were invariably catalogued as not for sale until 1951, when his watercolour, A Wharf, Spencer, was priced at 20 guineas in the Royal Art Society Jubilee Exhibition.

In a review of his first solo exhibition at Grosvenor Galleries in 1952, the art critic of the Sydney Morning Herald noted: ‘A fluent technique has obviously left its conventional imprint upon the watercolours of John Maund a long time ago…Apparently casual, these works at the Grosvenor Galleries are entirely deliberate in their negligent effect…Wherever this painter has decided to rest and record a scene, a reasonable success was more than likely assured before the brush was moistened…Near Stanwell Park, for instance is a charming demonstration of dramatic effect achieved with some broad washes and a little turbulent application in one or two places.’12

His subsequent exhibition at Grosvenor Galleries was damned with faint praise by the Sydney Morning Herald’s critic: ‘The watercolours of John Maund on exhibition at the Grosvenor Galleries are pleasantly unconcerned with such preoccupation akin to monomania. After all, nature tells all, the watercolour brush transfers all that nature tells, and human interference remains at a minimum…The watercolours of Maund are not meant to excite, despite an occasional storm cloud; they are meant to soothe. Those admirers of painting who like soothing realism may therefore find much pleasure in Early Sunset, Near Leets Vale, On the Lagoon or Hulks, which are quite adequate. Others who wish to discover the aspiring qualities in art – the metamorphosis of the ‘self’ – will not find it here.’13 

Between 1942 and 1951, the Art Gallery acquired four of Maund’s watercolours, She Oaks, Black Wattle Bay, From Tomali and Near Spencer, Hawkesbury, as gifts of the artist while his lyrical, atmospheric, marine landscape, End of Day, was purchased in 1952 through the Marshall Bequest Fund.

Socially, Maund preferred the company of artists, by whom he was certainly well-liked. Among his artistic coterie were Margaret Coen, a stalwart of the AWI for 59 years and past vice president, her husband, poet Douglas Stewart, and John Henry Young, co-founder with Basil Burdett of Macquarie Galleries, with whom he would regularly embark on weekend painting expeditions to Ku-ring-gai Chase, Frenchs Forest and Narrabeen Lakes when not boating on the Hawkesbury River in his cabin cruiser, Balama, with painter, Percy Lindsay. As Margaret Coen opined in Autobiography of My Mother, authored by her daughter, Meg Stewart, ‘I think Johnny regretted in his later years that he hadn’t devoted his life to art rather than to the law, and he was trying to catch up.’14 Coen recalled Maund not only as an aesthete but also as an epicurean and connoisseur of fine wines.

Maund was appointed a trustee of the then National Art Gallery, Sydney, succeeding the late Sir Joseph Carruthers, on 7 March 1933.15 Four months later, when he opened Percy Lindsay’s exhibition at Macquarie Galleries in July 1933, Maund was quoted as saying that ‘he, himself, did not disapprove of the modern spirit in art but thought that much good would come of it, just as good would come of all the changes the world was experiencing. The important qualities in a painting were beauty and emotional life and these should be welcomed whenever they appeared.’16 Yet, both he and Percy’s brother, Lionel Lindsay, as trustees, formed part of the conservative cabal virulently opposed to modernism that was the bane of Hal Missingham’s directorship of the Art Gallery for a decade. According to Missingham, Maund had taken an immediate dislike to him upon his appointment in 1945 and ‘always spoke to me as though I were a prisoner at the bar, until it got to the stage that he would only address me through the president, although we were seated only a few feet from one another.’17 In evoking his adversarial relationship with Maund, Missingham wrote, ‘I thought he was the most callous and insensitive man I had ever had the misfortune to meet’ with the qualification that ‘curiously, his watercolour paintings (he was a member of the Australian watercolour Institute for many years) were strongly romantic, moody and given to sudden tonal contrast, redolent of what he considered the best of the traditional English school of Cotman and Turner…’18

Despite his fraught relations with Missingham with regard to the acquisition of modernist paintings by the Art Gallery, paintings by modernists found their way into Maund’s own collection, such as Still Life by Roland Wakelin, which he lent to Macquarie Galleries in 1938, and H.E. Badham’s Travellers, lent to Grosvenor Galleries that same year. Travellers was eventually acquired by media mogul Reg Grundy and sold at auction in 2013 for $732,000.

Maund served for twenty-two years as a trustee under three directors, James Stuart Macdonald, Will Ashton and Hal Missingham. Despite having been appointed for life, he publicly stated at the opening of the AWI 19th annual exhibition (by prima ballerina and choreographer Madame Hélène Kirsova) that he believed the appointment of trustees for life was an anomaly that should be rectified. 19 Maund resigned as a trustee in 1956.

Throughout his tenure as AWI president, Maund was highly esteemed and did much to enhance the status of the Institute. The annual exhibitions at the Education Department Gallery were of a particularly high calibre and, for the most part, favourably reviewed, with numerous purchases by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The 16th AWI annual exhibition, opened by Sir Marcus Clark, attracted particular notice both for the quality of works and the number of women artists represented — more than twenty from most states.20

Georgina Kathleen Maund died, age 52, on 14 July 1940 at 22 Roslyn Gardens, Kings Cross, Sydney.21 At the time of her death, the couple lived apart, her husband being domiciled at Highden, 6 St Neot Avenue, Darlinghurst, East Sydney.22 According to her obituary, Georgina Maund was Lady District Superintendent in charge of St John Ambulance Brigade in New South Wales, with which she had been associated since 1929. In recognition of her service, King George VI invested her, during the Coronation ceremonies in May 1937, with the insignia of Lady Officer of the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem. 23

John Williams Maund died on 16 October 1962 and, prior to his cremation, a funeral was held at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Forbes Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney. 24

Maund is represented in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Howard Hinton Collection, held at the New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, and in private collections.


  1. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922, Registration Number 4870.
  2. NSW Law Almanac, Alfred James Kent, I.S.O., Government Printer, 1930, pp. 106, 111; Evening Times, 28 May 1900.
  3. The Land, 31 January 1936, p. 8.
  4. Barwick, Garfield, A Radical Tory, Federation Press, 1995, p. 13.
  5. Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 1936, p. 12.
  6. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 1935, p. 6.
  7. Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950, Registration Number 6099; and Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1913.
  8. Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1932, p.4.
  9. The Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. For the Year 1838, James Moyes, London, 1838, p.14.
  10. Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 1929, p.8.
  11. Look Magazine, Art Gallery Society of New South Wales, September 2014, p. 27.
  12. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 1952, p.2.
  13. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 1956, p. 2.
  14. Stewart, Meg, Autobiography of My Mother, Vintage Books, Australia, 2007, p. 267.
  15. Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1933 p.10.
  16. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1933, p. 4.
  17. Missingham, Hal, They Kill You in the End, Angus and Robertson, 1973, pp. 30-31.
  18. Ibid, p. 31.
  19. Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 1942, p. 3.
  20. Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1939, p. 5.
  21. Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July 1940; and Australia Death Index, 1787-1985, Registration Number 13219.
  22. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980.
  23. Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1940, p. 9.
  24. Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October 1962.

Copyright © Linda van Nunen and David van Nunen

Extract from Brushes with History: Masters of Watercolour by Linda van Nunen and David van Nunen (The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2015)

Copyright © Australian Watercolour Institute