DETAIL: Grace COSSINGTON SMITH,  'Interior in yellow', 1964, oil on composition board, National Gallery of Australia

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City Life

Grace Cossington Smith portrayed varied aspects of the city of Sydney: from public spectacles including royal visits and ballet performances, to crowds rushing for the underground and milling at the entry to a racetrack.

In 1917 Cossington Smith wrote about her experience of crowds to Mary Cunningham: ‘Sydney is very “funny” just now; it is very difficult to get there too! I caught one of the four trains up there this evening; it was like a play to see the people tearing along the platform, all ages, sizes and shapes, scrambling, pushing, squeezing’ (National Library of Australia). It is precisely this sense of drama that she captures in Rushing. The dynamism of the overlapping figures is the closest this artist came to the Futurists – in the engagement with the fast pace of modern city life.

Cossington Smith loved the random patterns of large groupings as seen in Crowd, a painting which demonstrates that this was indisputably the era of men’s hats! Although she disapproved of men wasting time in idle pursuits, the artist delights in the rhythms of the sea of hats worn by men waiting for Randwick Racecourse to open.

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