Constance (Connie) Stokes is a leading artist of her generation. A member of George Bell’s Circle, she was awarded the prestigious National Gallery Travelling Scholarship. In 1953, she was one of only two female artists included in a major exhibition that travelled to Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy. Her peers were Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Russell Drysdale.
Stokes’s early career is characterised by two competing forces: the social expectation to be just a mother and wife, and her desire to make art. In 1962 however, the unexpected death of her husband opened up space for her practice to resume.
Stokes preferred to call herself an ‘artist’ rather than a ‘female artist’: gender aside, she was a commendable artist. Despite this, however, no account of her career - nor Modernism itself - is replete without acknowledging how social conventions of gender propelled and inhibited certain artists. Stokes was a fierceless, expansive and acclaimed artist who deserves the same recognition as her male counterparts.
Recently, Stokes’s relative absence in the Australian canon has been redressed. In 2006, she was immortalised in Anne Summers’s book ‘The Lost Mother’. In 1994, she was the subject of a retrospective at the National Gallery of Victoria and in 2017, was again honoured at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. Stokes is currently represented in almost all public collections. As senior curator of the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery Danny Lacy stated, "[When you see her work] you can really see the place that she deserves in Australian art history."