May and Herbert Gibbs Collection

Natural wonders set Herbert and May alight

Flame tree [at the Dune]
Herbert Gibbs, 1934

On the back of this image Herbert Gibbs wrote: 'Flame Tree 35 years, this is the first year its [sic] flowered.' The Illawarra Flame Tree (brachychiton acerifolius ) flowers enigmatically, and this burst of tiny bells obviously brought great delight to the family at 'The Dunes' in South Perth. Herbert has produced a delicate interpretation, its simplicity emphasising his dexterity in using watercolour to reflect on the beauty at his doorstep. Reds that flash across the tree are balanced with the quieter colours of the house behind it: a juxtaposition of the everyday with the astonishing.

Such a scene seems a metaphor for 'The Dunes', a meeting place for Perth's artistic community, a comfortable home where spontaneity and reflection were nurtured. Here May spent her creative teens, and here Herbert found his passion for artistic engagement and affinity for interpreting the natural world finally satisfied.