Woodman’s delicate legacy lives on

Fred Woodman with his work "The Titan Arum" in 2013. 107722_03 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Can you imagine a time when Noble Park was a treasure trove of rare and wondrous orchids, flowers and other native flora?

It would be little more than a dim memory if not for the deft watercolours of the late Fred Woodman.

Mr Woodman’s family will formally donate more than 200 of his botanical paintings and sketches to the National Herbarium of Victoria at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne on 16 October.

The collection includes more than 95 portraits of species that have dwelled locally, such as trigger plants, greenhood and tiger orchids, banksias and flax-lilies.

They are immortalised by Mr Woodman’s sure brush-strokes.

His great-niece Sandy Brightman lived in a dwelling next to him on the family property, while many of these works were produced.

“He was so meticulous in everything he did.”

In his final days in 2016, Mr Woodman expressed a wish that his illustrations would be available for botanists, researchers and for all those with an interest in natural history.

The family have generously donated copyright for the Royal Botanic Gardens to use and share the artworks.

There was no request for royalties. “It wasn’t what Fred was all about,” Ms Brightman said.

“His wish was that the works would not be lost.

“They are now on record forever.”


What Mr Woodman was also about was natural conservation.

There’s a classic tale of him leading a year-long protest against a new railway station on the last habitat of the snake orchid.

The habitat wasn’t saved but Mr Woodman provided a calendar with a painting of the flower to the councillors responsible.

For the next year, they would be reminded every day of what they had done, he said at the time.

He was born and raised in Noble Street, Noble Park. He lived on the same property for his entire 88 years.

From a young age, his talent as a painter and a pianist was heralded in the Dandenong Journal.

He loved the simple self-sufficient life – growing his own produce, making his own clothes, easels and art bags.

“I remember how quirky he was,” says Ms Brightman, who wears an interlocking chain necklace that he crafted from a single piece of wood.

“He was always busy doing something. I can’t remember the TV ever being on.”

Botanical artist and colleague Heather Duggan deeply admires the craft of Mr Woodman’s donated portraits.

“His love comes through. You can see the love in his painting.”

Mr Woodman was also one of the founders of the long-running Noble Park Community Art Show, which opens on 19 October.

The 2018 show is bursting with more than 700 entries, including from aged-care residents and school students.

It will be launched on Friday 19 October, 7pm at Noble Park Community Centre, Ross Reserve, Noble Park. It is also open on 20-21 October, 10am-4pm.

Details: Noble Park Community Centre’s Facebook page or 9547 5801.


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