Women of modernity


“Someone else’s vision will never be as good as your own vision of yourself. Live and die with it ’cause in the end it’s all you have. Lose it and you lose yourself and everything else. I should have listened to myself.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe, Purple Hills Ghost Ranch - 2/Purple Hills No II, 1934

O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism, is an exhibition every art lover should see. Granted, these female artists never met in life, but the subjects they chose to represent and their pioneering experimentation with technique, connects and unites them for this show.

Dr Michael Brand, director, Art Gallery of NSW says the roaming Australian exhibition will not only bear us witness so some of the most famous American pieces of art by O’Keeffe, but also bring fresh perspectives to the work of two of Australia’s best known and beloved artists.

“Preston and Cossington Smith, like O’Keeffe in America, have long been recognised for their central role in the development of modern art in Australia. The three artists are connected by their choice of subject, their experimentation with light, colour and form and their commitment to presenting alternative ways of seeing the world,” Dr Brand said.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Pelvis IV, 1944

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was one of the most celebrated figures in American art, renowned for her abstract versions of nature. Landscapes, flowers, and bones, were her most famous subjects, interpreted and reinterpreted over and over by O’Keeffe throughout her life. Two locations in particular provided years of inspiration to O’Keeffe; the lush vegetation of Lake George, and the dessert planes of New Mexico.

Margaret Preston, Implement Blue, 1927

Similarly, Margaret Preston (1875-1963) focused on still-life rather than figure painting, looking to the native Australian flora and the distinct landscape of Sydney to inform her art. Having studied for three years in Munich and Paris alongside the avant-garde European artists of her time, she employed this modernist style of bold geometric shapes and black outlines. She is also known for her bold public voice for Australian culture and Aboriginal art a legitimate art form, championing a unique identity for the Australian art movement.

Margaret Preston, The Monstera Deliciosa, 1934

Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) was likewise part of the same wave of Australian art Preston belonged to, helping to establish the Australian response to Europe’s post-impressionist movement. Cossington Smith is characterized by her flattened pictorial space and use of bright, expressive colour applied in broad brushstrokes. Her dynamic series of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in construction is notorious.

Together, these three women proved to be an indispensable fraction of the modernist movement. For details on when the exhibition will be showing near you, click here.

Grace Coddington Smith, The Bridge in Building, 1929