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Inspiration for a national treasure

a statue in front of a building

Nutcote, located in North Sydney, was the home and studio of May Gibbs, Australia’s first woman cartoonist who is well remembered for her children’s stories and illustrations. He books have enchanted Australian and international children for over 100 years and the inspiration for incredible characters came from the gardens of Nutcote, The Blue Mountains and outback NSW.

Her gumnut babies were “born” in 1913. In December 1914 The Sydney Morning Herald declared “That she uses all Australian flower and leaf forms in her artistic work is one of the chief charms which Miss May Gibbs manages to infuse in all she does.” Her first Australian books were Gum Nut Babies and Gum Blossom Babies which appeared in 1916.

The house was specifically designed to accommodate Gibbs’ studio and reflected her lifestyle, needs and priorities. The living room was the main room of the house and reflects the trend from the 1890s to centre the house on a “living hall”. It was a gathering place for May and her circle, some of whom stayed for extended periods in the flat, second bedroom and in later years, a primitive suite of self-contained rooms in the basement of the main house. (May was besotted with her Scottie dogs (Scottish terriers) and, on excursions, there were bundled into the back of the car and nursed by the housekeeper).

Gibbs lived at Nutcote for 44 years, creating the Bib and Bub comic strip from 1924 to 1967. The comic strip “Bib and Bub” was produced at Nutcote until 1967, the site’s garden became an increasing source of inspiration for this and other works, particularly from the 1950s. The house and gardens are open to the public. Beware though, there are big, bad Banksia men roaming the grounds!

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IMAGE CREDIT: Daily Telegraph

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place