Nancy Borlase

Untitled (abstract, detail)

Acrylic on paper

Nancy Wilmot Borlase AM (24 March 1914 – 11 September 2006) was a New Zealand-born Australian artist, well-known for her landscape-based abstract paintings and portraits, and as a critic and commentator. Her work is displayed in the National Gallery of Australia and other major galleries.

Born in Taihape, New Zealand, in 1914, Borlase was 16 when she decided that art was her calling and shifted to Christchurch, making the move to Australia at age 22. She studied sculpture at East Sydney Technical College before switching to painting.

She lived for a while next to Sidney Nolan in Melbourne, was befriended by his benefactor John Reed, and worked as an artist's model. She married trade union figure Laurie Short in 1941.

Borlase started as a figurative painter before moving to abstract impressionism. Her work was influenced by a visit to New York in 1956, where she encountered Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. She became active in the then-radical Contemporary Art Society and was the Sydney Morning Herald's art critic for six years from 1975, during which time she made a cultural visit to China.