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Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Outhwaite Windows, St. Mark’s, Fitzroy, Victoria (detail)
Stained glass

Variable dimensions

Excerpt from St. Mark’s Fitzroy, Victoria:

One of St. Mark’s lesser-known treasures is a set of four painted glass windows by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, featuring children’s illustrations. These are in the Outhwaite Room of the Community Centre building. Once the children’s library of the St Mark’s Social Settlement, this room is used every Sunday by the Sunday School, thereby maintaining its link with children. These delightful windows are the only known essays onto painted glass by Ida Outhwaite.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was one of Australia’s most brilliant children’s illustrators. Born in Melbourne in 1888, her father Laurence Rentoul was Professor of New Testament Greek Literature and Christian Philosophy at Melbourne University. Her first published illustrations were a set of six Christmas cards in 1903, when she was fifteen years of age.

Ida received international recognition for her images of fairies, pixies, elves and witches, usually combined with illustrations of Australian flora and fauna. She held exhibitions in Australia, England and France, and wrote and illustrated six children’s books, including Blossom, The Enchanted Forest, and Little World of Elves and Fairies.

There is an oil portrait of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite by Amalie Colquhoun (1894?-1974) in the National Library of Australia.

The Outhwaite Windows

The Outhwaite windows in St. Mark’s Community Centre are the only stained glass windows created by the artist Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. They are unique and priceless, and deserve to be better recognised.

Why These Windows?

The four windows are in the St Mark’s Community Centre Lounge, which is open as a drop-in lounge each weekday. St. Mark’s Community Centre is a ministry of St. Mark’s Anglican Church.

The building was erected in 1926 by the Vicar of St Mark’s, Brother Bill Nicholls, and his people in the height of the depression, to minister to the needs of the people of Fitzroy, who were so grimly effected by the Depression. It was known as St. Mark’s Social Settlement. From the Social Settlement emerged a great variety of social and welfare work, including:

- Hot lunches for school children
- Gymnasiums and sporting groups
- A country farm for inner-city people to stay at
- Movies in the church
- A talk back radio programme
- A children’s library

It was this Children’s Library which was situated in the corner room which now serves as the Community Lounge. We believe that it was the first Children’s library in Australia. The library was given by a Mrs. J.T. Hackett, in memory of her late husband, and contained over 3,000 books, as well as magazines and even comics.

How Did The Windows Come To Be Here?

Brother Bill Nicholls, who established St. Mark’s Social Settlement, had a wonderful ability to involve people, and obtain donations of help. Many businessmen of Melbourne in the 1920s responded to his requests for help. The Social Settlement building could only be erected because of those who gave their donations of one thousand pounds - a very generous amount indeed in those days. The windows were Ida Rentoul Outhwaites contribution - and what an enduring contribution it was!

The only other public works executed by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite were a series of panels in the Childrens Wards of Prince Henrys Hospital. These panels were in water-colour, with pencil underdrawing. Four women artists decorated the walls of these wards with their panels, when the wards were opened in 1910. Ida was the only one of the four who had no professional training in art, and her style is quite individual.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite was born in 1888 and died in 1960. Although her work was hardly recognised at the time of her death, during the 1920s she was well recognised as an illustrator of children’s books. Indeed, she began at a very early age - an illustration appeared in an unidentified magazine when she was just 13. Two years later came her first professional appearance - in the New Idea of August 1903. They were illustrations for some Australian fairy stories written by her sister, Annie Rentoul. Christmas Cards soon followed, and the following year her first book was published, Mollies Bunyip.

Ida’s career then progressed - 18 exhibitions, not only in Australia, but also in London & Paris. Publications of her work followed in England & America. Her last major series of illustrated books, Bunny and Brownie, was published in 1930. The 1930s saw a decline in this area of work, and it virtually died out with World War 2.

Also see: Review of the Outhwaite Windows by Robert Holden


Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (Australian, 1888-1960)
b. June 9, 1888,  Carlton
d. 1960

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