Art find has link to Tatura

A rare, delicate watercolour painted by a Japanese prisoner of war held at Tatura during World War II has surfaced in Sydney.

JOHN LEWIS July 3, 2014 3:25am

Alison Bevege with a painting done by a Japanese prisoner of war while he was held at No. 28 Camp Hospital at Tatura during World War II. Ms Bevege found the painting among her mother’s belongings after her death recently, but has no idea how she came to have it.

The small painting of a bird on a branch was discovered by Darwin woman Alison Bevege as she sorted through her mother’s belongings following her recent death.

A typed note on the back of the framed painting says: ‘‘This picture was painted by a Japanese POW interned in Tatura POW Camp (No. 28 Camp Hospital) in gratefulness for the attention given him by Dr R. B. Perrins (Major, AIF).’’

Ms Bevege said the painting was signed in Japanese and was finely painted.

‘‘It’s possibly a finch resting on a camellia tree,’’ she said.

Ms Bevege said she had no idea how her mother came to own the painting.

‘‘I found it in her bedroom. As a child she lived in Swan Hill,’’ she said.

‘‘I think it is an amazing piece of history. It is exquisitely painted by some prisoner who clearly had skill.’’

Ms Bevege said she had contacted the Tatura Museum about the find.

‘‘I would like to donate it to them, but legally I have to administer the estate and there are other beneficiaries, so I am bound to seek best value,’’ she said.

‘‘So in all likelihood it will be sold at auction. Either that or the Canberra war memorial may buy it,’’ she said.

Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum joint researcher Lurlene Knee said the museum would welcome the painting as a valuable addition to its extensive collection of wartime documents and artworks from the camps.

‘‘We would be delighted to have the painting. If it goes to Canberra it would be stored away,’’ she said.

The Tatura district was the site of seven World War II camps which held between 4000 and 8000 people from Japan, Germany and Italy at any one time.

Some were enemy prisoners of war while others were families from hostile nations living in Australia at the outbreak of war.

Japanese prisoners were sent to Tatura after the infamous Cowra breakout of 1944.

Mrs Knee’s husband Arthur said if the watercolour was by a prisoner of war it would be rare.

‘‘There are very few paintings by POWs — they didn’t have the materials,’’ Mr Knee said.

Mrs Knee said the museum was still visited frequently by Japanese families searching for the history of their relatives.

‘‘We see the children of Japanese internees and prisoners — they are anxious to find out where they lived, but there’s not much left to see now,’’ she said.

‘‘We have shelves and shelves of their stories and books.’’

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