William Frater


William Frater was born on 31 January 1890 at Ochiltree Castle, near Linlithgow in Scotland. His father (also William) was Lord Rosebery's factor but sadly for Sarah Frater, her husband died soon after the birth of their son. Sarah and her four children were left to seek charity from relatives and William was brought up by his uncle on West Ochiltree Farm.  He was lucky enough to attend primary school and later to study for a year at Linlithgow Academy.

In 1905 William Frater became apprenticed for three years to Oscar Patterson's Glasgow glass studio. William showed much promise and with Patterson's encouragement he won the Haldane Scholarship for drawing and entered the School of Art in 1906.

William's painting flourished and his style emerged in the Glasgow Colourism movement but family trouble prevented him from finishing his final year at the school and he sailed for Australia on the Norseman arriving in Melbourne in September 1910. After an unsuccessful bid to be admitted to the National Gallery School of Art, William accepted a contract with Brooks, Robinson & Co. Ltd, to be in charge of stained glass design. Within a year however he had returned to England to finish his art training.

In 1914 he returned to Melbourne where he married tailoress Winifred Dow at the West Hawthorn Presbyterian Church on 15 May 1915. Soon Frater was established as a top craftsman and stained glass designer taking on commissions such as the west window of the Wesley Church in Lonsdale Street. 

However its was as a painter that Frater made his mark in Australian art circles. He helped introduce post impressionism to Australian artists, and in later years was President of the Victorian Artists Society between 1963 and 1972. He is best known for his figure and portrait paintings 'The Artist's Wife Reading' (1915) and 'Portrait of an Artist's Wife' (1919). His first solo exhibition was held in May 1923 at the Athenaeum in Melbourne's Collins Street.

Frater lived for many years from 1919 at 56 Lucerne Crescent in Alphington, often drawing inspiration from the local landscape.  In company with William McInnes, Frater often painted around the Darebin Creek.

In 1974 William Frater was appointed O.B.E. for his services to art. He died at home in Alphington on 28 November 1974 and is buried in Arthurs Creek Cemetery.

Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1851 – 1890. pub. 1969