Bertha Dorothy Leviny, known as Dorothy, was the most artistically prolific of the Leviny sisters. She studied painting, drawing, and design at both the Castlemaine and Bendigo Schools of Mines, later specialising in metalwork and enamelling. At Bendigo she studied under Mr Arthur T Woodward, a great proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Alongside her sisters, Kate and Hilda, Dorothy exhibited at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work 1907, in the sections of Painting, Design, Inventions and Art Needlework. She won second prize in the Fine and Applied Arts and Photography section for Best Original Design for Wallpaper.
Dorothy worked as a governess at a farming property in southern NSW for a short time in 1910 then moved to Melbourne to attend the Domestic Science College (later known as the Emily MacPherson College of Domestic Economy). In 1912 she became House Mistress at Girton Ladies College in Bendigo, and later, took a position as Matron at Morris Hall, the primary school of Melbourne Girl’s Grammar, where she remained until 1915.
In 1920, her lifelong passion for gardening led her to establish a lavender farm at Silvan, in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. In 1923, the same year her mother died, Dorothy returned to live at Buda.
An interest in art metalwork was consolidated when Dorothy attended classes with Stanley J Ellis at the Castlemaine Technical School in the mid 1920s. In 1941, at the age of 60, Dorothy furthered her studies in Art Metal at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She continued to create metalwork objects for many years. She died at the age of 86 in 1968.
Buda historic house and garden in Castlemaine contains a rich legacy of the creative spirit of the Leviny Family, who lived there for over 118 years. The Leviny daughters were encouraged to pursue their artistic interests at a time when women were being given more opportunities to study art and take up careers. They worked across a range of media including painting, woodcarving, metalwork, needlework and photography.
It was largely due to the foresight of last surviving sister, Hilda, that Buda was preserved as a house and garden museum when she sold the property to the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1970. Her sisters, Mary and Kate, left a broader civic legacy through their involvement in establishing the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1913, and assisting with the development of the gallery’s fine collection of prints in the late 1920s.
Text adapted from the booklet Buda and the Leviny Family, Lauretta Zilles (2011)