This week, St Catherine’s students celebrated Book Week and it was, therefore, timely that the week commenced for me at the very enjoyable book launch of Drift Wood – Escape and survival through art written by Eva De Jong-Duldig. The author’s mother was much-loved St Catherine’s Art and Craft teacher from the 1950-60s, Slawa Horowitz-Duldig. Many community members will be familiar with the Duldig Studio, Museum and Sculpture Garden located on Burke Road, East Malvern.

“In 1938 sculptor Karl Duldig, his wife Slawa Horowitz-Duldig and their baby daughter Eva, left their home in Vienna for an uncertain future. They found a brief refuge in Singapore before arriving in Sydney on 25 September 1940. Australia was at war: they were classified as enemy aliens and interned in an isolated camp in northern Victoria.”

Drift Wood follows the family’s narrow escape from Nazi Austria, as well as the recovery of all Viennese art and other possessions after the war (many people returned artworks that been hidden, and preserved, in family homes during the war in Europe). Spanning three continents and three generations, the book poignantly captures both the loss that Eva’s family encountered when they were dislocated by war and the challenges they faced when adapting to a new life.

During the book launch this week, the essence of Drift Wood was captured in the kind words of Dr Gerard Vaughan AM, Director, National Gallery of Australia and Dr Johannes Aigner, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Austrian Embassy, Canberra.

Eva’s parents, Karl and Slawa, went on to make a significant contribution to Melbourne’s cultural development after the Second World War, both as artists and teachers. Their home too became a place of learning and culture: the Duldig Studio offered a small piece of Vienna, far from Europe. Their home has since been expanded and renovated to house the Duldig collection of works, from their European beginnings and beyond. Interestingly, Eva spoke at the launch of not only her mother’s artistic talents and great inspiration as a teacher at St Catherine’s but also of her inventiveness. Slawa had invented the first folding umbrella with the patent approved in Austria in September 1929; after receiving royalties for almost ten years, she was sadly forced to sell her rights to the umbrella to Nazi led Germany.

Drift Wood also captures Slawa’s significance as an Art teacher at St Catherine’s for over 15 years. She remains fondly remembered by her students even today. Caroline Allen OAM (Merrylees ’56) recalls:

“At one time we went down to the river to draw and paint landscapes there. This was our ‘plein air’ phase and most enjoyable. Mrs Duldig would visit us and regularly tour our scattered group with advice and help. I wonder if she knew that one of our attractions was the view of the Scotch College rowing crews on the Yarra!”

“I remember my Art classes with Mrs Duldig as some of the happiest and most satisfying periods of my school life and my childhood years. In those days, we had our lessons in the studio, which was down beyond the hockey field, and I recall the sense of anticipation as I hurried down the land clutching my paints and palette. I also remember the sheer pleasure of drawing and painting, the quiet little lady in her white smock, and my reluctance to leave when the time was up”.

Our Head of Arts, Mrs Brigid Weereratne and I were certainly proud to represent the School at the book launch of Drift Wood this week. Slawa’s impact as a teacher is frequently remembered to me by Old Girls of the School and each year, SCOGA donate The Slawa Horowitz-Duldig Excellence in Art Award at our Speech Night. The love of attending Art classes resonates with many students within the School today and remains an ever popular elective choice for students in Years 9 to 12 with many of our Art classes visiting the Duldig Studio. Art classes with Mrs Guest, are also a favourite destination for our Barbreck Girls. The younger students curiously observe the creation of the VCE Artworks across the year, and notably, design related tertiary courses remain a popular choice for graduates.

In the spirit of National Book Week celebrations, I wholly recommend Drift Wood to our community for your reading list. Copies have been purchased for the School Library.

Save the Date

Tuesday 5 September
The SCOGA EDUCATION/DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION NETWORKING EVENTS – SCOGA invites Old Girls and the School community who work or are interested in working in the education/design and construction sectors to the ‘Women in Education’ and ‘Women in Design and Construction’ networking events. Hear from our panel of Old Girls discussing a range of topics including an opportunity for Q&A and networking. Book your tickets here.

Tuesday 24 October commencing at 7.00pm
Speech Night – An opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of the Year 12 Class of 2017 and a celebration of the academic and co-curricular achievements of our Years 9 to 12 students.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal