Lovoni Webb’s family was steeped in colonial history — the foundation of the Australian wine industry on one side and the opening up of Fiji to white business enterprise on the other. Yet it was art that captured Lovoni Webb’s heart. Webb, who has died at 82, was born in Newcastle, the eldest child of Jack Wyndham Webb and his wife, Rose Matilda (nee Wignall). Rose’s mother was the first white child born in Fiji, to an Irish mother and German father who ran a sugarcane plantation. Rose’s daughter was named Lovoni (after a valley in Fiji) Viria (also a Fijian name). Lovoni’s father was the great grandson of George Wyndham of Dalwood, who arrived in Australia in 1827 from England and gave his name to wine estates in the Hunter Valley. Lovoni had three younger siblings, Patricia, Trevor and Robert.
She attended Newcastle Girls High School, travelling to school by tram from Jesmond until the family moved to New Lambton in 1940. She attended part-time painting classes at the East Sydney Technical College, returned to Newcastle in 1948, worked for Shortland County Council and travelled to England in 1953 for the coronation of the Queen. Her time visiting galleries and exhibitions in Europe rekindled her love of art.
The National Art School’s Newcastle campus offered a part-time course in painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking which Webb attended from 1953 to 1955. She gained a mature-age scholarship to study the diploma of art course at the National Art School in East Sydney and earned her teaching certificate from the Sydney Teachers College in 1960 and a postgraduate diploma from the City Art Institute in 1984.
From 1961 to 1980, she taught at NSW secondary schools, including Arthur Phillip, Parramatta, Strathfield Girls and North Sydney Girls high schools. Her teaching may have been a touch authoritarian but fostered the interest of many students in her subject.
She exhibited in Newcastle in 1962 and in the Collectors’ Choice exhibition at Von Bertouch Galleries, Newcastle, in 1963. She held solo exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, in 1973, at Von Bertouch in 1987, and her paintings were hung in the Archibald, Portia Geach and Sulman prizes. Her works are held in various collections in Australia and overseas.
I have never regretted my life in art, Webb often said. That life featured exhibitions in Sydney — she lived in Paddington until returning to Newcastle for health reasons in 1999 — and visits to Europe and the United States. Lovoni Webb did not marry. She maintained loving relationships with her siblings and their families: Patricia with a son and two daughters; Trevor, with his wife, Mary, and four daughters; and Robert, with his wife, Jennifer, and three daughters. She taught her nieces much about art and life.